Reinventing Traditions: What Does Easter Mean To Your Family?

By Nelle Myrica Donaldson

Before we married, my husband and I spent a lot of time talking about our future together. Among other things, we considered how we might introduce or reinvent certain holiday traditions, once we had a family of our own. In the Northern Hemisphere, where we live, Easter is associated with the vernal equinox. Easter’s pre-Christian, spring-centric roots are associated with Germanic tribes who migrated to Britain from continental Europe between the 5th and 8th centuries, CE. We talked about the idea of celebrating Easter as a time of natural rebirth and renewal.

We also agreed that the giant, candy-giver bunny is a little silly, and we joked: “In our house, it will be a purple platypus!” Why not?

Well, the platypus has lost to the bunny, because no one else has ever heard of her and it would have required retraining a large extended family for the sake of something unimportant to us in the end. We do, however, try to frame Easter as a celebration of growth and new beginnings.

The Jesus story fits in just fine as an analogy for revival after death-like dormancy, but since Easter is not a church holiday for us, we find other ways to make it culturally meaningful and fun.

Here are some ideas you might incorporate into your own traditions (whether your Easter-time equinox is vernal or autumnal):

  • Take the “sunrise service” back to the back yard. Greet the sun as a family on Easter morning and soak in the beauty of dawn’s light and colors.
  • Fill Easter baskets with bulbs for planting new life. Depending on where you live, try amaryllis or narcissus (paperwhites) for indoors; tulips or daffodils for outdoors.
  • Grow sprouts. Alfalfa, bean, radish, cress, chive, or mustard sprouts are economical, nutrient rich, and fun and easy to tend!
  • Feature sprouts, shoots (e.g. asparagus, leek, bamboo), and other young greens in your family feast.
  • Enjoy a bonfire – a traditional way to celebrate the equinox and enjoy light, warmth, and togetherness. (A fireplace fire could work, too!).
  • Celebrate seasonal changes with collaborative art, e.g. four-season art collages.
  • Take on a cleaning/organizing project or a bucket list item and discuss what it means to make a “fresh start”.
  • Get outdoors and enjoy nature with a hike, on a bike, or any way you please.

Looking back at early Anglo-Saxon festivals, we meet Eostre, the daybreak goddess for whom their April-ish time of year, Eosturmonap, was named. The lights of her dawn were suggested to have been carried along by rabbits… So perhaps the big bunny has its own story of new beginnings to tell, and the purple platypus is sillier after all!

Nelle Myrica Donaldson is a writer living Berkeley, CA with her husband and three children. Her academic interests and expertise are in biology, psychology and anthropology, and she enjoys writing about the human experience through the lenses of parenting, science, and speculative fiction.

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