The True Meaning of Easter

There was a man on the telly the other day, berating us, and saying we should remember the True Meaning of Easter. It’s not all about bunnies and eggs, he was saying.

Well, pardon me, but that is precisely the true meaning of Easter! The word “easter” comes from “Eostre” an ancient goddess of fertility, and I believe, it may also be connected with “oestrus” (Greek οἶστρος) which can have a variety of meanings, but is also used medically as well as culturally as a description of female fertility. Think oestrus cycle and oestrogen.

Hence all the eggs and bunnies. It’s about fertility.

We were out walking yesterday, in the Chiltern Hills, and the world was just bursting with new life and fertility. Bluebells filled the beech woods with an aromatic sea of purple; we breathed deep to get our fill of the scent. Red kites soared, lambs gamboled, buds burst, fertility was simply bursting out everywhere, unable to restrain itself and our hearts filled with thanks.

When asked by officialdom to supply details of my religious beliefs, I always reply “Taoist”, partly because it confuses them, and I resent being asked, but also because I probably am a Taoist. I love the yin-yang symbol, it represents my experience as a gardener and a lover of the natural world.

In the middle of winter, standing in the vegetable garden, fork in hand, chatting to a robin, when all is dark and dank and dead, I come across a tiny fresh green shoot, and it seems like the very beginning of summer. It is the white dot in the middle of the black swirl in the yin-yang symbol. And six months later, when summer is burgeoning, everything is growing in a frenzied way, the birds are singing and the bees buzzing, I’m rooting about in the vegetable garden, pulling weeds, and I come across something that has died. It’s a harbinger of the coming winter. It’s the black dot in the middle of the white swirl.

What the yin-yang symbol reminds me is to be grateful for the on-going cycle of death and rebirth, and walking in the spring sunshine made our hearts almost burst with gratitude at the simply wonderful rebirth that is this spring.

So, for some people in the world, Easter is an opportunity to celebrate one Man’s death and rebirth, but the true meaning of Easter, the original meaning of Easter, and the meaning of Easter that’s relevant to all of us, whatever our religious affiliations, is that it’s an opportunity to celebrate and to give thanks for the on-going cycle of death and re-birth, because in this realisation is our salvation. Things die. We grieve. But they are reborn and we give thanks and celebrate. This is truly a wonderful gift, and the hope of the world, made real.

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