The meaning of holidays – or holy days – like Easter has changed and will continue to changes and so it should. Most people know that Easter was a Spring Equinox festival. Eostre was a goddess of renewal and spring. Eggs were a symbol of new life and the promise of spring after the harsh winters. Hares and rabbits were symbols of fertility because, well, they breed like rabbits. As the Christian church grew holy days were often attached to pagan festivals and the resurrection of Jesus aligns nicely with promises of new life in spring.
In times gone by, people mapped their lives with the patterns of nature. A festival to celebrate spring would have broken the monotony of everyday life and brought the community together just as the new shoots emerged.
As a child, I remember Easter mainly because the Easter Bunny brought us chocolate. Way too much chocolate. Whatever dad had planted in the paddock was at a nice grassy new shoot stage and we put it in old icecreams buckets to make an Easter nest.
Now, I am more interested in how a holiday like Easter fits the patterns of seasons and the patterns of modern life. Most of us live busy frantic lives. We notice the seasons change but we are not reliant on them for our sustenance and we control the climate in our houses and workplaces. One season can run into the next without consequence. But the seasons still affect our mood and lives even if we are not fully aware of the influence.
Here it is Autumn. We have not come out of a harsh cold winter. In fact, in the Australian subtropics, we are NEVER emerging from a harsh cold winter. But, wow, Autumn is such a relief.
Summer is tough. It can be wet and fertile but it is hot as Hades. The summer just passed was dry and difficult and depressing. In Autumn the days are warm but not unbearable. There is often rain. The Yesterday Today Tomorrow outside my study window flowers and fills the room with its scent.
Autumn, usually the Easter break, is when I get back in my garden. It has been too hot to do any work in the summer but now I can prune and mulch and fertilise and reground myself. Feel grubby and dirty and smell the hay. A pleasure that keeps me sane.
The other thing about Easter is rest and recuperation. I attack each new year with gusto and passion. This year I have a new full-time job that is demanding and absorbing. I have been juggling this with preparing for the publication of my collection of short stories, The Dark Poet.
Exhaustion is the word. Easter comes at just the right season to balance some rest with some gardening and some extra writing time.
The meaning of holidays will change as the culture and how we live changes. At this time in my life it is about resting, recharging and touching base with my dirt and my self.