Since I decided to regale all of you with news of my future involvement in the Minnesota Fringe Festival with the piece I posted on Sunday, it appears that I’m a couple days behind in giving spring its official LiteralHuman warm welcome. And why should I not? The coming of spring is a beautiful thing, full of the romance of a world blooming back to color after the monochromatic desolation of winter.
Granted, in northern Minnesota at least, the winter white has only so far been exchanged for a spring brown, sprinkled conservatively with a touch of green. And that’s ignoring the big winter storm we had in the middle of last week. But that’s just what the weather does; I’m more interested in spring in the cosmological sense, where we recognize how our humble planet is now aligned properly with the sun in order to share equal day and night.
The analogous history of this time of year is rich, as is each solstice and equinox. Cultures throughout the globe that have looked to the celestial bodies to keep time and develop calendars have created numerous celebrations this time of year, often with the theme of rebirth and fertility. In our own society, we see this unfold in the shape of the bunnies and chicks that are cutely sold as molded chocolate or marshmallows in honor of the Christian holiday of Easter. But seeing as how the Easter holiday is supposed to recognize the death and resurrection of Jesus, you may wonder where the bunnies and chicks and candy eggs fall into this narrative. Much like how Christmas was co-opted by Christians as an amalgamation holiday that consumed other such pagan celebrations including Yule and Saturnalia, modern Easter is the result of another means of Christians looking to convert heathens by means of showing them that they wouldn’t have to lose their cherished holidays and traditions once they accepted Christ. “Oh, what? You have a holiday on this day too? What a coincidence…and you use bunnies and chicks as symbols… get outta here, for real?! Us too!”
Ok, it was probably done a little smoother than all that, but you get the gist. It is kind of funny though, considering the paranoia so many Christians have on the topic of sex, that their most cherished religious observance is overlaid with symbols of fertility and, well, getting it on now that the weather is warm enough (rabbits are notorious for their reproductive abilities, and hatching chicks… the symbolism is clear enough). Even the name “Easter” is derived from the Old English “Eostre,” the Germanic goddess of spring who fought back winter and encouraged the creatures of the world to reproduce again.
The whole sex thing notwithstanding, the spring equinox really was the perfect time to celebrate the so-called passion of the Christ, what with the whole resurrection element. And whereas the ancient Greek words for “sun” and “son” weren’t homophonous like they are in modern English, Jesus was often referred to in Biblical literature as a giver of light, not to mention all the Orthodox paintings of him with the sun literally right behind his head. Therefore, particularly on his ascension, the calendar victory of daylight over night would be a perfectly symbolic time to celebrate such a redeemer.
Because I grew up in a Christian household, this time of year is inextricably linked to Easter for me. The prolonged services having to do with the torture and death of an eccentric preacher are deep in my past though, so I’ve been free to look at the equinox in much more personal way with each coming year. The arrival of spring is a means by which we can thaw and rejuvenate, to look at the year ahead with a sense of positivity, with the hope of growth. Even though our spring so far has been a little cloudy and dreary, the mere fact that it’s here is enough for me to anticipate the comfort of the sun.