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Modern-day Easter is derived from two ancient traditions: one pagan and the other Judeo-Christian. Both pagans and Christians have celebrated death and resurrection themes following the spring equinox for millennia. A majority of religious historians believe that many elements of the Christian observance of Easter were derived from earlier pagan celebrations. The name “Easter” itself originated with the names of an ancient goddess. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE), a Christian scholar, first mentioned in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. The "Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility was also known as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eastra and others.
St. Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, "the Day of the Festival of Patrick"), is a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17, the traditional date when Saint Patrick died. What began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland (c. AD 385–461) has become an international festival observed by the Irish and the Irish-at-heart. Irish culture is celebrated with parades, dancing, special food, beer and a tremendous amount of green (including copious amounts of green beer).
Red and green are colors that are closely associated with Christmas. Last week I shared how red became a Christmas color. You can read that post here: Think Red for Artisan Christmas Gifts. This week, green, the other Christmas color, is explored mainly through the symbolism of holly, mistletoe and evergreen trees.
The color green and its association with the time around Christmas has a pre-Christian origin, more specifically tied to the Winter Solstice. Evergreen plants, like holly, mistletoe and pine, spruce or fir trees have been used for thousands of years to decorate and brighten up buildings during the long, dark, cold winter when life could be very tenuous. Ancient peoples were scared of the short days and freezing nights and mistakenly believed that the Sun might disappear altogether. Evergreens reminded people that spring would come and that winter wouldn't last forever. Historical records show that the Romans wove wreaths of holly to hang on their walls and doors to celebrate the winter solstice / Saturnalia. They also exchanged evergreen branches as a sign of good luck. The ancient Egyptians would bring green date palm branches into their homes during their mid- winter festivals as a symbol of "life triumphant over death." To the ancient people, the color green represented life, nature, peace, eternity and the hope of the future.
The color combination of red and green is closely associated with Christmas - for example, Santa’s red clothing and green holly with red berries. But how did this come about? From ancient history to modern time, color has been an integral part of cultural awareness and even an understanding of life; it touched all members of society and conveyed deeper messages (such as, only royalty could wear the color purple). Red and green as Christian symbolism can be traced back to Medieval Miracle Plays and rood screen painters. The color combination can be traced to the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh stories from the 13th century. And these stories were probably based on an oral tradition that dates back to the pre-Christian Celts many centuries before where a half-red, half-green tree figures prominently in one of the tales. In pre-Christian times, red and green represented male (red) and female (green), strength and harmony, desire and fertility.
Since I live in the Desert Southwest, autumn comes creeping slowly in with cooler temperatures. Most of the trees here are evergreen so there isn’t much color change. This time of the year, I always think about the forest we lived in for 10 years in Northern Virginia. Oh, the glorious colors as the leaves on the trees changed.!!! Sometimes almost blinding color combinations. Then sometimes, the wind would hit and the leaves became a carpet of color on the forest floor. I ran across this great quote about autumn wind from Steve Sabol: “The autumn wind is a pirate. Blustering in from sea with a rollicking song he sweeps along swaggering boisterously. His face is weather beaten, he wears a hooded sash with a silver hat about his head . . . The autumn wind is a raider, pillaging just for fun.” A pillaging wind playing with and swirling the colorful leaves!
The temperatures are beginning to heat up here in the Desert Borderlands (although I can’t complain since this has been an unusually cool spring). With the higher temperatures, it seems the sunsets become more fiery in all their blazing yellows red, and oranges. A sunset a couple of nights ago gave me the inspiration for this blog post: Fiery Red and Orange. I browsed through the studios of Indiemade handmade artists and featured a fiery red or orange (or both) creation from each. I hope you enjoy these richly colored selections.