This week we acknowledged the first day of spring, the vernal equinox. Next weekend many will celebrate Easter, both Christians and secular celebrants.

Marla Hoffman

I grew up celebrating Easter with my family; it was always a big affair. I looked forward to Easter baskets, hidden plastic eggs with treats inside, giant chocolate bunnies, dressing up in my cutest spring dress, visiting family.

But for as long as I can remember, it was the coming of warm weather that excited me the most. Forget the Easter Bunny: Give me new baby animals and warm breezes!

The coming of spring is a special time for me. I’ve always felt my best out in nature, breathing in the trees, feeding my eyes with budding flowers, green grass and cute baby goats and chicks!

I’m not the only one. I asked my 10-year-old son, Jameson, what his favorite thing about spring is:

“It’s warm,” he said, “and it’s close to going swimming and camping.”

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My husband, Brent, followed suit.

“I love seeing everything come back to life. Seasonal birds coming back. The smells of spring,” he said. “And mud. I like mudding.”

Valid.

Then came this week when Mother Nature did us wrong. She betrayed us with fresh snow Wednesday night into Thursday morning. I mean, here I was, wearing sweatshirts all week instead of a winter coat. My poor son, ready to put his boots away, had to once again heavy-foot it outside. And now I hear more snow is coming into this weekend.

All the beautiful warming temperatures we’ve been seeing recently turned out to be nothing but a spring tease!

Sigh.

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Still, despite the disappointing turn of weather events, the arrival of the equinox tells us that the northern hemisphere is indeed on its way toward the days of light rain, sprouting flowers and, yes, spending time outdoors.

Though this winter in Maine wasn’t all that terrible — we’ve definitely had worse seasons — I think we all deserve the weather that we know (hope for) is coming.

We need a clean slate — the return of growing season.

Hannah Lam puts another egg in her basket April 8, 2023, during an Easter egg hunt in Augusta’s Mill Park. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Spring and Easter are inarguably connected. The imagery of new life is deeply rooted in both celebrations. For Easter it’s the resurrection of Jesus; for spring it’s the rebirth of nature.

With so many symbols of spring, such as the return of the flora and fauna, none rival the bunny, also called the Easter Hare.

According to a 2022 article in Smithsonian Magazine, in European traditions the bunny, with its amazing reproductive potential, is an important representation of rebirth — hence the arrival of the illustrious Easter Bunny into folk legends going as far back as the Neolithic age.

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Ever since my kids were little, while we did the egg hunts and the rabbit thing, I tended to put more focus on the celebration of spring, the nice weather, the arrival of growing season. What can I say: my literal-minded heart has always attached itself to the practical.

These days, the kids are a little too old for the egg hunts and are soooo over celebrating the bunny. But that hasn’t interfered with my celebration of spring, despite their protest! As they tear through their baskets, I tell them why we celebrate the spring equinox, why it was so important to our agrarian ancestors, and why it’s still important today (OK, kids, repeat after me: “seasonal affective disorder”).

This Easter we are celebrating with my in-laws with an early dinner at a restaurant. It won’t be like most of the Easters of my past, and that’s OK. Just like the egg hunts and the big bunny, traditions and celebrations change.

Whether you observe Easter at church, mark arrival of spring with pagan rituals, or a little of both traditions … it doesn’t matter because everyone appreciates the arrival of spring no matter how you celebrate it.

In my family, it means my annual vernal equinox lecture. And that ain’t going anywhere.

Marla Hoffman is the nighttime managing editor for the Sun Journal and can be reached at mhoffman@sunjournal.com.

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