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Just like Christmas with Santa Claus, the ancient holiday of Easter has largely been overtaken by the corporate Easter Bunny. In truth, the need to observe the approaching spring season seems to be in humankind’s bones, as the history of the Easter holiday reaches back millennia to some of our oldest ancestors. This year, instead of participating in a joyless holiday largely spearheaded now by corporations, you can enjoy a timeless, sacred festival by learning more about Easter’s spiritual roots.
Learning About the Foundational Festivals
The celebration that we currently call Easter is one of the oldest in the world, and even the modern Christian story behind Easter — Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion — was present in pagan mythologies for several thousand years before Christ. For example, Sumerians, inhabitants of the world’s earliest known civilization, told tales of their goddess Inana being martyred on a stake and coming back to life after a short period in the underworld.
However, the urge to celebrate the first sign of spring is even more obvious than in cultures’ shared tropes. The vernal equinox symbolizes creation and renewal, not just of the Earth (as plants turn green and bloom and baby animals venture into the world) but of humankind itself. Every year, spring triumphs over winter — light conquers dark — and humans have another opportunity to learn and grow.
Understanding the Signs and Symbols
Many Christian children throughout the years have pondered the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the Easter Bunny with his painted eggs. The truth is that these symbols of Easter predate Christianity by hundreds of years.
The Easter Bunny — and all of the rabbits depicted during this holiday — actually arise from the Saxon spring celebration of the goddess Eostre, who was revered for her powers over fertility and who was frequently represented as or with a rabbit. Some stories claim that Eostre’s consort was a hare, while others say she saved a rabbit’s life by transforming it into an egg. Nevertheless, since the popular celebration of Eostre, rabbits have forever been linked with springtime fertility in the Western mind.
The egg is a completely separate — but no less popular — symbol of new life. Almost all worldly cultures revered eggs for their seeming life-giving power, and some even purport that the Earth and humans were birthed from a giant egg eons ago. For centuries, people all over the world have painted and decorated eggs and presented them as meaningful gifts to family, friends, and other guests.
Celebrating a Spiritual Easter
Your dedicated spiritual advisor is best suited to guide your Easter celebrations, as she or he knows the most about your history and self and thus can select personally wholesome and healing rituals. In most cases, the most primitive celebrations will be the most spiritually rewarding. You may elect to organize a sunrise or sunset service with like-minded friends and family, where you observe the rising or setting sun and sing praise for the new season. If you live near an ancient site of astrological significance, such as Angkor Watt, Chichen Itza, or Stonehenge, you may find the yearly celebrations at these deeply spiritual places to be wonderfully rejuvenating.