“In the spirit lands both Christmas and Easter are looked upon as birthdays: the first, a birth into the earth world; the second, a birth into the spirit world. In this realm the two celebrations synchronize with those upon the earth, since there is then a greater spiritual link between the two worlds than would be the case if the festivals were held independently of season. It is not so, however, in the higher realms, where laws of a different nature are in operation.”
-Excerpt from Life in the World Unseen, by medium Anthony Borgia
Happy Easter to all. Today was a beautiful day in the northeastern United States. The weather is warm, with the sweet ineffable scent of spring on the breeze. The robins are hopping through stalks of alium. The daffodils are raising their sunny faces toward a blue sky.
Easter is a Christian holiday in name and deed, though the secular symbols are a conglomeration of various May feasts and pagan spring festivals. Celebrated on the spring equinox, these ancient celebrations give us the bunnies, chicks, brightly colored eggs and the pastels we most associate with Easter. In the age of the internet, most savvy Christians have discovered the lack of rabbit symbolism in the bible. Jesus did not take his followers on an Easter-egg hunt, after all.
Pagan celebrations were a natural reflection of our agricultural societies, when all people lived close to the land, observing the minute changes in the earth, the trees, the stars and the animals. As sharp-eyed ancients recorded the celestial wanderings of the sun, moon and stars, we developed an understanding that the sun’s movement portended seasonal changes in the earth. These guided our lives and activities, and soon mythmaking grew up around the anticipation of each season.
Around the time of the Spring Equinox, people observed that rabbits, birds, squirrels and other creatures begin their busy preparation for the nesting and raising of young. Eggs became a nearly universal symbol for birth and fertility. After a long dark winter, the spring festival celebrated the sure return of warm weather, the hope for good crops and fruitfulness in animals and people. Early flowers dotting the landscape contributed the pastel colors yellow, lavender, pink, and white to the holiday we now recognize as Easter. Trying to compete with the spring festival was an exercise in futility for the early Christian leaders, therefore the observance of the resurrection was entwined with the existing holiday and the symbolism of rebirth re-purposed for biblical themes. This created the dual-symbolism we see today. Churches sponsor Easter-egg hunts, and young girls in their pretty new pastel dresses meet with the Easter bunny after mass.
Christians aren’t the only ones celebrating rebirth in the spring, Iran celebrates its new year on the spring equinox. Nowruz dates back to the time of Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that emphasizes the balance between good and evil in both the divine and human world. Nowruz is observed over thirteen days during which Iranian celebrants clean their houses, buy new clothes and hold a picnic outside on the last day with friends and family to renounce the bad luck associated with the number 13.
Holi is a Hindu spring festival observed around the time of the spring equinox. Known as the ‘festival of colors’ or the ‘festival of love’, the occasion is marked by throwing colorful bags of pigment on each other, as well as music, dancing, and general frivolity in the streets. The celebration marks the end of winter, and the symbolic victory of good over evil. There are various religious and cultural ties to the holiday, such as the celebration of the god Vishnu and Krishna, but Holi is becoming increasingly secular.
In Thailand, the new year’s festival occurs in mid-April. The Songkran Water festival symbolizes the return of spring, and the cleansing of negative influences. Sprinkling water on a friend or family member is a sign of respect and fraternity, however, younger revelers will often douse each other in the streets.
Bulgarians herald the end of winter by recognizing Baba Marta, translated to ‘granny march’. Baba Marta is a mythical elderly woman whose smile brings the warmth of spring. Celebrated just before the spring equinox, people give each other red and white woven strings called Martenitsa which symbolize the nearing of spring. Children compete to see who can collect the most. Houses and animals are also decorated with the colors red and white. When the first signs of spring are seen, those who are wearing the red and white threads will then hang them in the trees.
These are just a few of the many spring celebrations that are celebrated the world over. Is it simply the return of spring with its promise of crops and fertility that has inspired nearly every culture and people on earth to welcome spring with such creative and joyful celebrations?
I would argue that human beings have looked long at the cyclical nature of the seasons an inferred from it a sense of their own immortality. Christians believe that Jesus resurrected in the flesh – a literal triumph of life over death. In other cultures, the symbolism is abstracted to good versus evil. In more practical terms, the return of spring was a matter of great survival, after a winter scarce of food. Spring has always been a big deal.
While people around the northern hemisphere celebrate spring, we also celebrate the the eternal renewal of life after the long slow decay of autumn and winter. It gives us hope that in the autumn of our own days, a rebirth is possible. When things seem at their darkest and most bereft of hope, there are little signs all around us that signal the return of joyful youth, renewal..rebirth.
Spring holidays the world over symbolize the triumph of life after death – whether you are inspired by the sacrifice of Jesus, or the victory of good over evil, or find hope in the signs of spring after a brutal winter, let us remember that the signs of rebirth are not limited to the symbolism of robins, crocus and flowering pear trees. The promise of eternal life can be found in the beautiful imagery relayed by near-death experiencers and inspired by the unearthly glow that falls upon the faces of the dying who see a glimpse of the wondrous world beyond. It is in the simple but profound statements of children who remember past lives, and in the subtle but meaningful signs from a loved one who has passed, like the scent of their perfume, or a song that reminds you of pleasant memories.
Spring reminds us that for each ending is a new beginning. For those few who touch the divine so briefly through various spiritual experiences, their stories inspire us and give us hope that after the toil and hardship of this life, comes a fresh new beginning in another. The evidence of life after death is all around us, should we have the eyes to see it, the courage to believe it, and the humility to understand the awesome implications for our lives on earth and beyond.