There is something about the morning sunlight this time of year that feels magical. In the final weeks of winter, I can always sense a subtle change. The sun rises a little further east. The birds begin to call a different tune. The earth is slowly stretching, her breathing more shallow as she prepares to awaken. Then – It’s spring!
The season officially changes when the day and night are of equal length. The earth’s axis, while never completely perpendicular to the sun, is as near to zero as it ever gets. If you checked the times for sunrise and sunset, you were disappointed to see they were not exactly 12 hours apart. That’s because of the way they are measured. Sunrise begins the moment the sun first peeks over the horizon, while sunset is the moment when the last of the sun sinks below the horizon. Equinox, which means “equal night,” is measured when the center of the sun is at the horizon.
It is said that spring equinox is the only day when an egg will stand on its end. Many have tested this and report it to be untrue. Some eggs will stand on their end, regardless of the date, so you might get lucky!
Easter is early this year. Traditionally, Easter is the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Equinox. We’ll have a full moon this week, Wednesday or Thursday (depending on where you live). The egg will be prominent in many of our homes as we celebrate Easter. It has become a symbol of new life, making it perfect for both springtime and Easter celebrations.
When I was growing up, I remember that my mother would not eat eggs on Good Friday. She believed that eggs were thrown at Jesus as he was crucified. Another egg story is that the phoenix refused to eat from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. Every 500 years, the bird is said to create a nest of herbs and spices. Sitting on the nest, it lights itself on fire. afterward, an egg – laid by the phoenix – is discovered among the ashes. When the egg hatches, the phoenix emerges, resurrected.
Ancient cultures, including Egyptians, Romans and Chinese, embraced the egg as a symbol of the universe. The word “Easter” is derived from the Old English word for “east.” A pagan spring festival originated from the Latin root for the word “dawn.” Dawn begins in the east, and both Easter and springtime mark new beginnings.
In pre-Christian Europe, Anglo-Saxons worshipped Eostre (or Ostara), the moon goddess of spring and fertility. She was always portrayed as standing among spring flowers and holding an egg in her hand. Her sacred animal was the hare, which laid eggs to honor her and encourage her fruitfulness.
The Druid goddess of fertility was Blodeuwedd. She was the first of a long line of Flower Women worshiped by the Celts. Her face and hair were portrayed in spring flowers and patches of white clover bloomed in her wake. She was the goddess of fertility and dawn.
Later, Christians adapted many pagan traditions and symbols for their own celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Eggs were one of the foods forbidden during the forty-days of Lenten fasting and penitence. When that ends, on Easter Sunday, eggs are still plentiful in our homes.
There are many tales to explain why we color eggs at Easter. One of my favorites is a Polish legend that tells of the Virgin Mary delivering eggs to the soldiers at the cross, begging them to be kind to Jesus. As she wept, her tears fell on the eggs and turned them into brilliant colors. In another version, Mary Magdalene brought eggs with her, for a meal, when she went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. When she uncovered the eggs, the white shells had taken on the colors of the rainbow.
Whatever your traditions, there is much to be celebrated this week: The vernal equinox, spring’s arrival, the full moon, Holy Week and, of course, Easter! So, plant some seeds, buy some flowers, color some eggs! Honor new beginnings by enjoying longer days. Feed the birds and listen to the peep toads. There is no better time for starting something new! Gather your loved ones close and share whatever customs you practice. Happy spring!