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March 21, 2011

Separating Easter from Ostara

(cross-posted from my blog)

Most kids I know think of Easter as a day of chocolate bunnies and boiled eggs. Many of them get dragged along to church, and a number of them even know the story of Jesus being resurrected. But when push comes to shove, I'm pretty sure that if you ask a kid about Easter, they're gonna go back to eggs and bunnies.

My parents wanted to separate Jesus from the candy, so on Easter Sunday we went to church, told the resurrection story, and had no candy whatsoever. The next day, we would hunt for eggs and baskets for our Family Night. I remember at one point when I was 10 or 11 I complained that all our friends got candy a whole day before we did. My mother calmly pointed out that if she waited and bought the candy on monday, it was all half price, and she would be able to get us twice as much. I was sold! I actually went on to tell friends about it for several years--how no, we hadn't gotten our baskets that morning before church, we would have to wait for Monday, but it was ok because we would get extra candy that way. Clearly I thought along the same lines as most other kids in terms of where my focus was.

So I was already accustomed to separating celebrations of the Resurrection from celebrations of springtime, but it still felt a little sloppy... By which I mean that doing it on two adjacent days still felt like it was all one holiday, whereas I wanted a more defined separation.
And then I learned about Ostara.
Most of the things we think of as Easter symbols (eggs, flowers, bunnies, chicks) are actually from Ostara (even the name was snagged from "Oestre" which was a germanic goddess of springtime). Ostara is a celebration of rebirth and new life, so it does fit in spendedly with the themes of Resurrection, but they are not the same thing. One celebrates seasons and cycles, the other celebrates Christ's sacrifice for the eternal salvation of humankind. I don't want to mix them up.

So we separate the two separately.

On Ostara, we celebrate springtime and new life. We dye eggs, make egg/bird/bunny shaped sugar cookies, do spring cleaning, and have a big dinner with spring greens, eggs, poultry, or lamb. We may also get some seasonal candies to share with the family, but we don't have baskets or sneaky bunnies or any of that.

Then, on Easter, we celebrate Christ and the resurrection. No eggs or bunnies. We make a dinner of fish and honey because that's what Christ ate with the apostles, We also make resurrection rolls which are a family favorite.

A note about Ostara and Easter.  Easter's date is actually based on Ostara, because Easter (which is dated off Passover), always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after Equinox. This year, the full moon fell one day before Equinox, so the two holidays ended up being a full month apart. Last year they were only a day apart.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the explanation of why the two can be so close or far apart. I was wondering!

    I wasn't prepared this year to celebrate Ostara properly, but had already decided that we were going to remove candy and eggs from Easter Sunday. So far, we've compromised and at the very least got out our Spring decorations yesterday and talked about it. For traditional Easter, we're going to do our egg hunt on the Saturday before and attend an Easter mass on Sunday, and I like your idea of a fish and honey meal!

    The additional thing that I love about Easter season, is Passover, which we also celebrate as Pesach (I have a little Jewish culture envy and this is one of my favorite high holidays). I just love this time of year! (and next year I'll be more prepared for Ostara itself!) Thank you for these wonderful posts and for a place to bring these traditions together!


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