Today is the Spring Equinox.
(Sorry — I wanted to write/post this a lot earlier, but the munchkin is not feeling well — i.e. incredibly whiny and clingy — and I didn’t get the chance.)
If the equinox is completely new to you, here’s a quick explanation: astronomically speaking, the equinox is the day on which the tilt of the Earth’s axis is neither away from nor towards the Sun, but completely parallel, resulting in a night and day length that are the same. (The same phenomenon occurs again in the fall). We mark this as the first day of spring.
I’ve been longing to observe the turnings of the season for years, but have always managed to miss them somehow.
The solar festivals (i.e. equinoxes and solstices) are generally considered pagan holidays, but I believe that they hold plenty of promise and meaning for Christians as well. After all, we believe that God designed the seasons. Most Christian holidays, festivals, and rituals were borrowed, adapted, or inspired by pagan practices, anyway.
So today, at last, I want to do a little something to celebrate the birth of spring. Here are a few (admittedly scattered) reflections and ideas.
Remember, I am BRAND, BRAND new to this, so more experienced celebrants might find this amusingly simple.
What’s so special about the spring equinox?
As I was browsing the web for ideas and inspiration, I came across this explanation from School of the Seasons:
[On this day], Day and night are equal, poised and balanced, but about to tip over on the side of light.
Isn’t that poetic? Today, the light and darkness are equal. The scales are balanced . . . but tomorrow, the light begins to grow. Light is about to win over darkness.
The author also notes, “Just as the dawn is the time of new light, so the vernal equinox is the time of new life . . . We are assured that life will continue.”
We see it in the pale green spears hiding underneath last fall’s fallen leaves. We see it in the newly-built nests.
Light. Life. Birth. Hope. It’s all here.
These things are common and relevant to all of us; but they hold special meaning for Christians, too.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, “God creates” is the first thing we know about our source and our maker.
And that’s why spring is important to us: as we watch green sprouts poke out of the dark earth, and deep red buds swelling on the tree branches, we remember this primal truth about our God.
It only makes sense, then, that this is also the season in which we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. The Creator of all things has the power to bring life out of death. Withered bulbs send forth new shoots. Cold, bare branches begin to burst with new buds. Amphibians crawl out from the mud; mammals awaken from their slumber; birds return from their southern detour.
The dead rise from their tombs and walk.
Death is not the end.
In summation, the spring equinox celebrates the following:
LIGHT = NEW LIFE = RESURRECTION = CREATION
These abstract ideas are commonly represented by flames, mirrors, eggs, seeds, and flowers.
So taking all these ideas into account, how can we celebrate the Equinox?
For starters, here are a couple of (very simple) decorating ideas I culled from the internet. Creating an environment in which to reflect on these truths seems, to me, like a good place to start.
- Gather tree branches, covered in buds, and arrange them in a vase or pail with water to encourage further blossoming. Make this your table centerpiece. If you have the time, energy, and resources, decorate your “tree” with springy ornaments — flowers, coloured eggs, etc. (I would love to eventually expand this practice to a full-fledged Easter Tree ritual).
- Also decorate your table with other emblems of light and life: candles; mirrors; a glass bowl of water with flowers/leaves floating on top; eggs; etc.
- Use the colours red and green: red, to represent the blood of sacrifice, and green, to represent new life. (I know these are currently considered Christmas colours, but they seem more appropriate as Easter colours to me.)
I intend to light a candle at dinner and pray this short prayer that I wrote (with a brief passage adapted from the Catholic missal):
We pray, O Lord, that this candle may continue endlessly to scatter the darkness of this night. May it be received as a sweet fragrance and mingle with the lights of heaven. May the morning star find its flame burning, that Star which knows no setting, which came back from Death. Christ is like the morning Star because he descended into Death and emerged again.
And so, someday, will we.
We are reminded, today, by the light of this candle, that the Light will win over Darkness.
God: we thank you for these things: Light. Birth. Creation. Resurrection. Hope.
We thank you, that you have hidden reminders throughout your Creation — reminders that morning follows night; that spring follows winter; that resurrection follows death.
Today, we celebrate green shoots and red buds. We celebrate eggs in nests, as they contain the promise of new life. We celebrate swollen pregnant bellies, babies, and children, as they represent our future.
You are the author of all good things, the source of hope. As the season turns to spring, we remember. We praise you and thank you.
Do you have any special ways you celebrate spring? Do share!