Celtic culture fan Lauren Smith suggests things we can do far more than scoff chocolate eggs at this time of year. Find out how you can celebrate a Celtic spring.
Who doesn’t love the arrival of Spring? The harsh Irish winter is coming to an end and the days are growing longer. The air smells a little sweeter, the grass is greener. In short, there’s a general feeling of good cheer and hope about the place.
I think back to childhood memories. Days spent scoffing Easter eggs in my grandmother’s kitchen in Co. Laois, or gorging on vulgar amounts of chocolate and sweets with my friends. Each year we ate until our bellies were sick. We spent the evenings sitting by the Gills Pond chatting idly in the cool spring weather.
My memories of Easter and spring time are happy ones. However, as I grow older and wiser (ish!) I’ve been learning more about the true meaning of Easter and where the tradition came from.
Like Christmas and Halloween, the season has largely fallen prey to commercialism. It’s now used as another ploy for the big wigs to get their hands on our money. We’ve forgotten our heritage and the true meaning behind these celebrations. So this Easter, while you’re munching on your chocolate Easter eggs and preparing for the annual Easter bunny’s visit, spare a thought for our ancestors and the true meaning of the season. Spare a thought for the Celtic spring.
To the Celts, the Spring Equinox was a time for self-reflection and rebirth. The Celtic spring was a time of new balance in nature after the long Irish winter. It was the season when seeds were sewn and new life hatched. Animals were at their most fertile and the equal division between day and night hours meant that conditions were perfect for crops to grow.
It was a positive time full of possibilities, particularly for growth and courtship. The ancient Irish were thankful for this time and honoured the Celtic spring. In modern day Druidry, Spring Equinox is known as Alban Eiler. Would you like to honour this time in a more traditional way and look past the commercial aspect of the season? If so, here’s a few ideas to get you started.
Spring is the season of the daffodil. Wear more yellow clothing and plant some daffodils one sunny afternoon. The bright cheerful tones are uplifting and fresh. They might even encourage you to do some spring cleaning! They will certainly add a bit of zest to your home and garden.
Spring Into Action
At this time the sun moves into the astrological sign of Aries, a fire sign which is all about action. Aries motivates us. It urges us to get rid of the old and work on the new. Do you have ideas for new projects in the back of your mind? Or perhaps a hobby or pursuit you’ve always wanted to try? Now is the time to act! It’s also a good time for home improvement or personal development. Take charge of your life and make those changes that have been circulating in your mind all year.
Another great way to prepare for the Spring Equinox is to take a meditative walk in a sacred place, somewhere special to you. Undergoing a mini-pilgrimage during this time is a great opportunity to reflect on the things in life you’re thankful for. A short walk in nature will bring you the peace and mental space we so often neglect to make time for.
The Celts would go on these pilgrimages every year with their families in an act of prayer and worship. It was a time for reflection on the beauty in their lives, when they could put aside concerns and worries. In these times I can’t think of a more healthy or therapeutic activity.
DIY Easter Eggs
Instead of stuffing yourself with chocolate eggs which you’ve paid a small fortune for, why not pay your respects to the German goddess Ostara? She represented spring and dawn, and her name comes from the female hormone oestrogen. We can remember her and honour this time of fertility, growth and new ideas by decorating hardboiled eggs and displaying them in our homes. This is a particularly enjoyable activity for children who will likely relish the chance to let their creative juices flow.
Ready, Steady, Go
Another fun activity for children is the classic game of egg races. Hard-boiled eggs are rolled down a hill to see whose reaches the bottom the fastest. There’s also the famous egg and spoon race. Your children will be fit and ready for summer with these creative outdoor pursuits. Simple changes like this bring us back to a more pure and authentic period in time. Even one day spent in nature, away from phones and laptops, will make a world of difference.
If you want to go all out this Spring Equinox you can gather the family and make a beautiful spring altar. This simple homage to spring will be a constant visual tool of reflection for everybody in your home to enjoy.
The alter typically consists of a green cloth draped over a table, with yellow flowers and budding twigs cut from trees placed on top. Five candles of equal height are arranged in a circle on the table. The colours of the candles represent the natural elements coming into balance. You’ll need a blue candle for Air, red for Fire, blue/green for Water, brown for Earth and violet for Spirit. Then place a gold ribbon in a circle around the candles to represent the solar cross of Celtic tradition.
When your altar is complete, have each member of your family write down their concerns and worries and place these under the altar. Then light the candles to send everyone’s cares to the Gods.
Remembering Our Heritage
It’s important to remember where we came from and why we celebrate the feast days as we do. We Irish originate from a culture rich in peaceful spirituality and beautiful traditions. I believe we have much to learn from our ancestors’ way of life. Practicing some of their beliefs and reflecting on their wisdom can help us to stay connected with them. It may even bring us some much-needed peace. I hope this inspires you to value and appreciate the beauty and sacredness of our natural world. Wishing you a wonderful Celtic spring!
Lauren Smith is studying media production at Ballyfermot College, and does community radio work. She is fascinated by Celtic traditions, spooky things, myths and the mystical side of the Irish culture.