Spring is my favourite season. Last weekend in the UK saw the Spring Equinox. The word equinox is Latin for “equal night”. Gardens, woodlands and grass verges are a blanket of daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops. The light is returning.
The beginning of spring has been seen as a time of renewal by cultures around the world throughout history. Bringing in the end of winter, with the days brighter and growing longer after the vernal equinox.
Ostara has its roots in ancient Anglo-Saxon beliefs. It is thought to have derived its name from the fertility goddess Eostre, whose own name comes from the Germanic word for “east.” The goddess is typically depicted as a young woman surrounded by light and budding trees and flowers, symbolizing her association with dawn and the coming of light of the spring season. Symbols like eggs, rabbits and spring flowers are also associated with the goddess, speaking to the fertility and renewed life she is believed to bring. Our words for the “female hormone” estrogen derives from her name.
The Ostara festival falls on the day of the equinox, the day when light and dark are equal. It also marks the time when more light will begin to come in, days will be longer, nights shorter and food will be more abundant. At a time when people had to store food to last the long harsh winters, this festival was particularly anticipated as a time of renewed hope.
Ostara is a time to celebrate life and balance.. With the promise of a new beginning in the fresh blossoms in trees and green sprouts of bulbs from the ground, new nourishment was available and a sense of possibility restored.
Ostara is believed by some to have been the origins of many of our Easter traditions. Eggs are an obvious symbol of fertility, and the newborn chicks a cute representation of new growth. Brightly colored eggs, chicks, and bunnies were all used at festival time to express appreciation for Ostara’s gift of abundance.
The tradition of painting hard-boiled eggs during springtime pre-dates Christianity. In many cultures around the world, the egg is a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth. For thousands of years, Iranians and others have decorated eggs on Nowruz, the Iranian New Year that falls on the spring equinox.
I have fond memories of Easter from my childhood –
- Decorating hard boiled eggs and then going to the local park to join in the egg rolling.
- Finding evidence of the Easter Bunny on the school desks and little Easter treats (the Easter Bunny’s feet looked strangely like the the print made by the class chalk board rubber!)
- The excitement and fun of the Easter hunt, complete with out baskets.
Whatever your traditions for spring, Ostara and Easter –
What are you Spring traditions? Do you celebrate this time of year?