The significance of festivals in the yearly cycle – Easter-time

Spring Solstice – the Easter Date – ‘Easter Bells’ – Osterglocken – daffodils, and the Easter egg hunt! ~

The Holy Week has begun. Lent, which began on 17th February this year, draws to an end. It marked the 40 days of fasting before Easter (Sundays excluded) reflecting Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. Fasting, a time of inner purification, is part of many religious festivals, and much could be written just on this. Other cultures have religious or other cultural festive celebrations during this period of spring and Easter time.

In many cultures earlier, not just in Rome, the time of spring and the spring solstice marked the beginning of the New Year: the sun had overtaken darkness, and new life and new impulses could take place. Nature and human impulses were in closer alignment. Calendars themselves were much more varied over different cultures, with current differences for instance between Chinese, Judaic, Islam and Christian calendars being a reflection.

Generally, calendars were based on Lunar periods (the moon), Solar periods (the sun) or natural or nature rhythms (the earth). Sun, moon and earth. There is a deeper significance in this. And indeed, the setting of the date for Easter itself combines all three elements: it is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (an earth cycle). (Eastern Orthodox churches use the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar for this calculation, with some additional rules applying). There was thus a deeper significance is this movable date, and current attempts by churches and states to fix the Easter date are ignoring this.

The important thing is to be open to exploring the deeper meanings behind customs around religious festivals ~ is there more to them than just a ‘tradition’ in that particular religion? In exploring the deeper meanings, we can discover a deeper meaning within the flow and course of the year itself. Many adults are rediscovering this, for some even helped by the lockdown times of the pandemic. But it has especial meaning for children and their connection with both the cycles of the seasons as well as a for developing a sense and reverence for a deeper meaning for human festivals. Not that it has to be explicitly ‘explained’ to children: they will know and sense if the caring adults surrounding them feel and cultivate a deeper understanding, not just for festivals but, well, for life itself, with sensitivity for the spiritual foundations.

Take the Easter egg hunt – perhaps you are planning one for this Easter! What is that? Why an egg? A reflection: the egg hunt has a deeper level to it, that goes beyond a religious tradition. What is the egg? It is a very real bringer of new life. From this, it has been a symbol down the ages for creation, or birth, or new-birth. In Ancient Indian mythology, out of a shining golden egg arose heaven and earth. The Persians pictured the world before evil as a huge light-egg. In one Egyptian myth, the first god arose from an egg. In Greek myths of creation, the great Goddess Nyx laid a silver egg, from which came a god with golden wings: Eros, the god of love. In Christian symbolism, the egg is a symbol for the resurrection: new life from an inner golden sun breaks through the hard outer shell, overcoming the confines of the hardened mineral world.

And the egg hunt? A hunt is a journey, an inner journey. Christ’s words “seek and ye shall find” have a deep universal wisdom in them. We are seeking for new life, a new inner birth…

It is a reminder to us: We need to think a little out of the box when it comes to religious customs and festivals – many have deeper meanings that transcend borders of faiths, relating to the spirit that weaves and works in all.