Sunday, March 21, 2010

Celebrating the Spring Equinox

Happy Spring! This year we celebrated the Vernal Equinox, which marks the beginning of spring in the Northern hemisphere. The equinox is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs when the earth’s tilt on its axis is such that the sun’s rays directly hit the equator. When this happens, the earth reaches a balance between day and night; indeed, equinox means “equal night.” The spring equinox is one of four astronomical events also including the summer solstice, fall equinox, and winter solstice that mark the change in seasons.

We’re planning to observe these events as holidays in our family. The following excerpt from Calm and Compassionate Children: a Handbook by Susan Usha Dermond articulates some of our interest in celebrating the change in seasons with Ezra.
Seasonal rituals and holiday celebrations do more than create a rhythm, security, and a calm predictability: they also transmit our values. Their cyclical nature reminds us that behind change and seeming chaos there is order and calm. Seasonal rituals remind us of our connection to nature and help us appreciate that interdependence … rituals you and your child create around nature’s cycles … can help children notice and feel connected to all of life and appreciate that their bodies are a part of nature.
We will use these seasonal holidays as opportunities to note the cycle of life and celebrate nature. We will observe and reflect on annual changes in the natural world. We will learn about our local ecosystems and the flora and fauna that inhabit them. We plan to have fun while doing it!  As Ezra grows, we want to incorporate art, storytelling and games into the celebrations too.

The Spring Equinox holiday is a celebration of rebirth, growth and fertility. There are many religious and cultural celebrations worldwide that coincide with the spring equinox including the pagan holiday, Ostara, honoring Oestre, the Saxon goddess of Spring; the Christian holiday, Easter; the Iranian New Year, Nowruz; and the Jewish holiday, Passover. These holidays share themes and traditions that mark the beginning of spring. We also hope that celebrating the spring equinox will not only give Ezra a sense of place in his local environment, but will show him what is shared around the world. We want Ezra to be familiar with the mythologies, rituals, and customs surrounding these shared holidays.

Because Garry and I are not religious, we don’t observe Easter, which is celebrated by many of our families and friends. However, observing the equinox allows us to share with Ezra many fun traditions associated with Easter that we remember from our childhoods. Garry and I have loosely observed the spring equinox in the past, but I had worried that celebrating the spring equinox with Ezra would feel false, like we weren’t celebrating a “real” holiday. However, we made plans and decorations and prepared food, and on the morning of the equinox I really did feel like we were celebrating a holiday. I awoke with anticipation for the day. Our festivities this year included an afternoon hike at Cedar Bluff Nature Preserve. We entered along a tributary of Clear Creek at the base of a 75 feet limestone bluff. We hiked up the bluff and picnicked near a bed of diminutive white Trilliums. We enjoyed the sunshine and read an excerpt from Scott Russell Sanders’ The Force of Spirit. In the evening we had a holiday feast with Effie and Squash. Our table was decorated with naturally dyed eggs, germinated seeds, flowers, and candles.

As Ezra gets older these festivities will evolve and change according to his interests too. Some part of our celebrations may more closely resemble those of Easter, particularly decorating and hiding eggs for Ezra to find.


Chad Roots said...

Beautiful -- also incorporating the egg hunt as he gets older will help assimilate with his peers' and families' Christian culture and bridge any insecure differences he may feel while holding on to your families traditions!

What about the tooth fairy? Summer and I almost screwed that one up -- I could have gone without it!

Garry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garry said...

We are still waiting for Ezra's first tooth so we haven't thought much about the tooth fairy. How did you almost screw it up?

Amanda said...

Chad, thanks for your comment. It's wonderfully astute and I may have to quote it in the future. I also hadn't thought about the tooth fairy at all. Sounds like fun to me! Do share your story with us.