When I think about Easter, I’m reminded of my childhood and how we’d squirm around in church anticipating the moment we get home to tear the house apart in search of our baskets. We’d pull up into the driveway and my Mom would turn around and face all four of us in the car; simultaneously unbuckling our seatbelts in such madness it sounded like a stampede of horses running on pavement. She’d tell us to sit back down because she had to go inside and “make sure the bunny came”. Worst liar ever. But we didn’t care. The amount of sugar we were about to destroy left us with little room to worry about who arranged and left the basket.
Which is a good segway into this article. Traditions, as I’ve noted in holidays past, seem to continue expanding, and when those get old we make new ones. Bigger, better, more extraordinary ones. If I had a nickel for every time one of my elders said “When I was a kid _____,” I’d have a lot of nickels. But now it’s my turn. Honestly, dyeing eggs, hiding baskets, going to church and eating ham on the fancy plates was about all I can remember as a kid. I loved Easter. But now, I can’t even count how many traditions have been added to the list of “Do this or you’re a bad parent”. At what point do we get so wrapped up in crafting the perfect Easter wreath for our front door that we completely forget why we’re celebrating this holiday? Tying delicate little soft-color bows around crappy toys that fit in a basket (made in China), and scrolling pinterest to tag and save recipe ideas for making your cupcakes look like an egg nest or your crescent rolls shaped into bunny ears. How much time do we spend navigating the Hobby Lobby and Target stores planning out the perfect Easter egg hunt, craft projects, home & table decoration planning, unique ways to fill a child’s basket so they love you more, and trying to find the perfect Easter dress or outfit? After all that time spent planning an event that lasts a few hours, we’ve wasted weeks of our lives that could have been spent actually hanging out with our families, or kids, or hell… maybe even time that could have been dedicated to learning a thing or two about Easter.
What is Easter? Aside from chocolate eggs and pretty dresses. What is it? Why do we celebrate it? Here’s something to think about: if you can’t factually answer the question as to why we all gather around the table to dye a dozen hard boiled eggs every year, then why is it so important for you to do it? Because it’s a tradition? But you can’t have a tradition if you don’t know why it’s a tradition in the first place. So what is this holiday really? That all depends on who you are, your religion or your culture.
New life, Battle of Good vs Evil, Fertility, Balance, Freedom
For the majority of those who celebrate Easter as its known globally, it’s one of the most important holidays for Christians following the season of Lent to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are many Christian interpretations of Easter, but the common foundation across the board is that Easter sunday represents the day Jesus ascended into Heaven, when his spirit rose up from the dead. Many religions and cultures have similar stories, as it may surprise you (maybe not) that nearly all cultures have a tradition or celebration for that moment a spirit rises from their earth bodies and move on to their next life, whether it be as energy, spirit, thought or plane. It is considered “new life”.
So that takes us back even further. Same book, the Bible. Old Testament. The Jews celebrate Passover, which precedes Easter, as a celebration of the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt. Pesach is the festival of the Jewish people celebrating their exodus, which later became Pascha, which now means Passover. (note to all of my Jewish friends: please correct me here if I’m wrong). This also represents a new life for the Jews. A new beginning.
Where did we get the name Easter?
Easter actually comes from Pagan origin. Are you surprised? The name Easter is derived from the Goddess of Fertility, Eostre, which is later used in an interpretation of the female hormone that helps to produce eggs. Can you guess? Yep, estrogen! (fun facts) The celebration of Spring began as early as 200 B.C., possibly much longer before that. The Spring Equinox celebrates the new life of Spring, as well as the metaphorical ideas of balance, where the earth is aligned in such a perfect position that the north and south poles are neither tilted one direction or the other, thus producing a day and night that are equally the same time. This is where the egg comes in. Sort of. It is said that during the Equinox, you can balance an egg upright and it will not tilt. This is symbolic for balance, and the egg represents new life that Spring brings forth. There is also a metaphorical philosophy towards the equal times of day and night that represent the battle between darkness and light. This also goes back to a Christian interpretation of Jesus’ descension into Hell and subsequent journey into Heaven. Some say that there are many similarities between Jesus and one of the three (trinity) Hindu Gods, Vishnu, who is the preserver of life and preacher of karma, and reveals himself as a reincarnation in many lives, including the life of Buddha. If you look closely enough, you will identify the Trinity in many or most religions and cultures.
So why do you celebrate Easter?
I hope this holiday means more to you than identifying 101 ways to use a marshmallow peep. I also hope that whatever religion or culture you identify with, you understand that there are many interpretations of Easter, and it’s so beautiful to understand them all. This can help you create much more meaningful traditions, whether it’s for Easter or Halloween. Understand the history for a deeper meaning and either apply that to your own religious identity, or use that understanding to connect with and identify with others.
When we think of Easter, we think of ___________. Take a look at how all perspectives and traditions tie back into each other:
- Eggs (new life, balance)
- Jelly beans (shape of the egg)
- New life (Spring)- Resurrection
- Balance in life to make good decisions
- battle between darkness & light
- Resurrection of Christ (new life, again)
- Freedom & victory over dark forces
- Night & Day are equal – battle of dark and light forces
- Balance (Equinox, Earth is at celestial longitude of 0*)
- Easter – Eostre – Estrogen – Hormone that produces eggs
- Bunny – rabbits – fertility
Whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew or Athiest…. don’t let the over-stimulation of commercial traditions interfere with your ability to appreciate the holiday. Whatever the meaning is to you, celebrate it. But do so without all the smoke and mirrors. You don’t have to turn every recipe into a metaphor or shape of a bunny. You don’t have to pile pounds of candy into an easter basket in order for kids to enjoy it. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Make it more meaningful by expressing your own, personal interpretation.
For those of you trying to avoid the sugar craze, here are some healthy ideas to celebrate Easter this year:
- Instead of giving your kids something to eat, give them something to read. Educate them, put a spin on the holiday. As adults, we’re learning far too late that food should not be associated with any emotion; bad or good. Don’t pass that on to your kids. Here’s a great book for kids: The Greening of the Earth.
- Plant something! Afterall, if we are celebrating new life then what’s a better way to express that other than growing something from the earth. You can create your own metaphor with this no matter what your association is. Plant a tree or shrub. Drop some seeds into the ground and make a wish or commitment about what you will do throughout the year to create balance and/or spiritual growth. Let that seed remind you that you are growing each day, or getting closer to your goal, whatever that may be.
- Bubbles: I like this for kids and adults. Bubbles represent all that we are leaving behind: stress, worry, anxiety, anger, or fear. We leave these things behind so that we can start new. Pure thoughts, clean of the negativity weighing us down. Make this a solitary thing, or share it with your family or friends! As you blow bubbles, name each one with any negative or ill thought/memory and watch it float away from you and eventually POP. Celebrate this as your new freedom! You’ve been a slave to negative beliefs and thoughts and now you are free!
Challenge: Can you think of some unique, and personal ways to celebrate Easter? How do they bring meaning into your life as an individual or as a family?