Spring is the season of new growth, and the signs of change are all around us. Flowers smatter parks and lawns, the days are longer, brighter and warmer, and our emotions are lifted by the extra light and raised temperature.
Springtime is seen as a time of growth, renewal, of new life being born, and of the cycle of life once again starting. It is also seen more generally as the start of better times. At this time of year we begin to feel less sluggish, and become more open to inviting changes – both big and small – into our lives.
The symbolism of spring is one most people can appreciate. In all cultural traditions, the world over, it is a time of re-birth and new beginnings. Whether it is the antics of the numerous fertility gods of rural communities, the Green Man festivities of pagan cultures or the Christian resurrection of Easter, springtime itself has never been a season to go unmarked.
The word Easter is supposed to derive from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, worshipped by some neopagans, who associate her with various aspects related to the renewal of life: spring, fertility and the hare (allegedly for its rapid and prolific reproduction). Modern worshippers and writers describe Eostre as a “goddess of Dawn” based on the etymological relationship between her name and the Anglo-Saxon word for ‘dawn’.
The egg motif of Easter can be seen as an underlying pagan and pan-religious symbol of birth and the continuity of life, and it is also part of the Passover ritual.
As God pronounced to the people of Israel enslaved in Egypt that he would free them (the Exodus), he said he would “Smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.” However, he instructed the Israelites to put a sign of lamb’s blood on their door posts: “and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
Such is a political story of liberation and refusal to be persecuted. It uses the symbol of a scorched hard-boiled egg for birth, renewal, beginnings, and fresh leaves – parsley or lettuce, again, for renewal and to celebrate spring and the refreshing of the cycle of life.
The tradition of Pancake Day stems from the need to clear out the larder of eggs, butter and milk before lent – a time in which to examine our lives and experience a new springtime of hope. These festivals are a call to positive-thinking. How can anyone not be inspired by the spirit of optimism that springtime seems to bring? The new and rapidly-growing field of positive psychology has shown how important emotions such as hope, pleasure, humor, excitement, joy, pride and involvement are to human happiness.
One of the key elements of positive psychology is optimism, which its founder Dr Martin Seligman and others have shown has a major effect on human behavior. Not only do optimists get sick less often and recover from illness more quickly than others, but they also live longer.