We started following the traditional wheel of the year many years ago after a rather harrowing Christmas season. The stress of it all made me question why I was actually doing it. We weren’t Christian after all and back then that seemed pretty black and white. We weren’t pagan either. We had no religious leanings.
I just ran across an article actually, stating that here in British Columbia, we are one of the least religious places in the whole world! Needless to say, almost all of our friends are secular.
So I decided then, that we could celebrate the Winter Solstice instead, because I could get behind celebrating snowboarding, sleigh-rides, icicles and general winter-y fun. Also upon further digging I found out that a lot of Christmas traditions were actually pre-Christian pagan traditions. The tree, the mistletoe, the yule log, the holly. I was so glad to be able to keep my beloved Christmas tree tradition (renamed Solstice Tree). We can talk more on this next winter? Suffice it to say, Halloween, Spring-time and Easter are the same.
We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag.). The great Christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name ôstarâ … it is mostly found in the plural, because two days … were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries. ~Jacob Grimm
Back in the day when the Christian empire was new-ish and they were trying to convert the pagan masses, they realized that simply outlawing their most loved celebrations around the wheel of the year and various gods and goddesses probably wouldn’t work. It was much more effective to sort of rewrite the holidays using Christian terminology, symbolism and Saints, thinking the people would come to accept the changes over time. With Easter in particular, we have not only the resurrection of Christ plopped next to the Spring Equinox, but Saint Patrick’s Day on the other side of it, just to assure your full distraction. That Time hey? What a ruffian, pulling the wool over our eyes.
Having our little boy however, put a new spin on things. If we don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter, do we toss aside Santa and the Easter Bunny? The thought was heartbreaking to me. Santa Clause was one of my guides when I was little, even when I figured out that he wasn’t ‘real’ like you and I are real. I could not possibly deprive my son of these enchanting and important figures of childhood.
So, we do a kind of cross-over, or what I call ‘seasonal celebrations’. In Spring we celebrate Ostara on the Equinox. We colour eggs and eat brunch together inspired by traditional foods – mainly eggs! We set up a Spring family altar space. I generally do my first round of Spring-cleaning in the week leading up to the day. I usually talk about the meaning of the day throughout our activities, so that Fox gets his ears around traditional stories and language. I love to read to him out of Starhawk’s book, Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions. This book is one of my essentials, chalk full of stories, celebrations and ideas for ritual activities for the family to do together. I highly recommend checking it out.
When Easter rolls around, we are visited by the Easter Bunny, (who by the way is a good friend of the Goddess), who leaves his basket of chocolate eggs and other treats, usually at the end of a long trail of bunny-footsteps! Then, we do some kind of easter egg hunt outside with our good friends and their kids and round-up the day with dinner at Grandma’s house.
This blending of old and new draws the celebration out, so that we are focussed on the season rather than one particular day. I find that my son looks forward to various days of excitement and celebration, rather than having all of his expectations on one day. This works at Solstice too.
And of course because we are not Christian, we don’t generally talk about Jesus or any of the stuff that was superimposed on the season. It’s not that I’m against talking about the Christian view of the world, and we do here and there when it comes up. In fact this year, my son insisted that we celebrate St. Patty’s day! I never had before for obvious reasons. But, true to my heart lad that he is, how did he want to celebrate it? Leprechaun traps!
Happy Spring to you! Happy new growth, inspiration, warm breezes, flowers in vases. Happy love and return of the light. Happy new projects and garage sales and out with the old. This is one of my favourite times of the year.
Here are some correspondences for the season:
Traditional foods: eggs, egg salad, hard-boiled eggs, honey cakes, first fruits of the season, fish, cakes, biscuits, cheeses, honey and ham. You may also include foods made of seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, as well as pine nuts. Sprouts are equally appropriate, as are leafy, green vegetables. From Scott Cunningham: flower dishes such as stuffed nasturtiums or carnation cupcakes also find their place here. (Find a book of flower cooking or simply make spice cupcakes. Ice with pink frosting and place a fresh carnation petal on each cupcake. Stuff nasturtium blossoms with a mixture made of cream cheese, chopped nuts, chives and watercress.) Appropriate Ostara meat dishes should contain fish or ham. (source: 13 Moons)
Colours: white, pink, gold, pastels
Essential Oils: floral, honeysuckle, lavender, lemon.
I love to put lemon essential oil in my mop water when I’m spring cleaning. Beautiful smell and energetically it cleans everything out! I also use dried lavender as a smudge. It smells sweeter than sage and my altar loves it.
Symbols: eggs (new life), the hare and rabbit (fertility), the new moon, the butterfly and cocoon, flowers, birds and nests.
Symbolic Activities: planting, gardening, wildcrafting, collecting wildflowers, ringing bells, lighting a fire at dawn, walking meditation in the woods.