"Ostara": The Goddess of Spring & Fertility
As a child I remember being insanely confused about Easter. I grew up in the church, a member of a congregation, and was in church damn near six days a week for something. When it came to holidays and celebrations I truly did not understand most of what was said or done. I wondered, like most of you, "What does a giant bunny have to do with eggs?" and "Why do we hide eggs just to go looking for them?". The most important question I only recently found the answer to was, "What does Christ have to do with spring?"
Regardless your upbringing, you've likely wondered what Jesus, the Easter bunny and eggs have in common as well. And, no, this isn't the beginning of a joke that ends with "popes in a volkswagon" or some vague answer like what I was given which was, "I don't know. Its all been commercialized". This answer bugged me then and bugs me now, especially as a mother. So, I dug deep to have a more thoughtful answer for my young men and found the origin of Easter dates back thousands and thousands of years ago, way before Christ's time.
Easter is based on the goddess of Ostara in Germanic traditions or Ishtar in Mesopatamia mythology, which we know as "easter". The story is of the goddess asleep all winter long and wakes in the spring, around the month of April, following the lunar cycles the way a woman's fertility cycle does as well and she wakes the frozen ground with her warm breath and breathes life back into the natural world. The full moon represents the pregnant phase of Ostara heading into the fertile season for crops, the hatching of eggs, birth of new babies in the animal and plant kingdoms. The egg, the beginning of all life, is also representative of the balance found in nature- life/death, masculine/feminine, yolk/whites, inhale/exhale, day/night and the other inward/outward breaths found in spiritual and physical realms. After a dark, cruel, cold winter indoors, we celebrate new life and joy each spring. Ostara breathed life into a frozen bird and in her honor each year, the robin lays an egg and a hare hatches. Of course, this is mythology, but it is a story to share with young children and celebrate new life and honor SPRING!
It makes sense that Christians would utilize this time to tell the story of Jesus' death, his time in the tomb, and the resurrection that brings joy to the hearts and minds of Christians, but you can imagine my confusion as a young child getting dressed up for church and then searching for eggs with a giant man-bunny!
Regardless the belief system in your home, children delight, and relate to, fairy tales, folk tales, and legends and oral storytelling has helped young children make sense of the world for centuries. In a Waldorf home, eggs are dyed with food dyes from cabbage, tumeric, berries, and onion skins, and a spring nature table is created. Candles are lit, stories are told, songs are sang, and the story of the root children may be read or performed. We will participate in Easter celebrations around town, but in our home, we honor the goddess of spring, Ostara, each Easter.