Monday, March 22, 2010

Easter Traditions

It has been said that the Pussy Willow was incorporated into the symbols of Easter in Northern Europe because Palm Trees did not grow there, but in fact, the Pussy Willow, like the Palm, is a symbol that far predates Christianity.

Pussy Willows, like Snowdrops, are among the earliest heralds of Spring in the Northern world. They are connected symbolically with motherhood. To me, because of an irresistable image in an Easter card, they are linked to kittens and cats as well.
In a charming book published in the early 20th century, 'The Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten' by Oliver Herford, there is both verse and picture:

'Sometimes I think perchance that Allah may,

When he created Cats, have thrown away

The Tails He marred in making, and they grew

To Cat-Tails and to Pussy-Willows grey.'

Pussy Willow is a true Willow and as such, under the power of the Moon, of enchantment and the Goddess. If you take a pussy willow twig and set it in water, it may begin to grow, even if seemingly dead or dry. This may be another reason why the Pussy Willow has become one of the sacred symbols of the Easter season.

An old family tradition of ours for almost every major holiday, was to dress a doll appropriately for the season. We were not given a new doll every Christmas or Birthday but often my Mother would dress a doll for each of us in a new outfit and set her beneath the Christmas Tree.

Even though I am not a child now, I still have the urge to mark any festival occasion by dressing a doll in holiday clothes. I have not acquired any new outfits for my dolls, but one of the photographs shows a vintage bent-knee Wendy doll from the 1950s that I redressed in a 1990s Madame Alexander outfit, 'Sunday Best'.

I do not think it really matters what the tradition or the symbol for any festival is but rather the emotions that it evokes. The old universal practice of 'Spring cleaning' was designed to sweep away the old and to purify the home for a new year or season. If one is unable to perform a thorough 'spring cleaning', the simple act of dressing a doll in a new outfit carries the same symbolism and significance.

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