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Celebrating Easter in a Recession: Low-Cost Holiday Tips for Honoring the Equinox

In a world afflicted by world-wide economic downturn, people could be forgiven for viewing rabbits and eggs as sources of protein, rather than symbols of renewal. But going deeper into the reason for Easter suggests these alternatives to chocolate-fests and expensive dinners.

  1. Make something. Easter is about renewal. Write a poem, build a book-case, bake bread with your children. C. Johnson and M.C. Shaw (Celebrating the Great Mother. Rochester: Destiny Books, 1995) suggest finding something you can do to spark a rebirth of creativity. As well as honouring new life, a creative act can give expression to a principle of the equinox (the time of equal days and nights) – living in balance.
  2. Volunteer or (if you can) give something to a food bank. Building relationships is an important part of seasonal festivals. In times of economic hardship, people tend to extend goodwill beyond their immediate families to members of the community. Following an article in the Marlborough Express observing that the demand for food parcels had increased by 30 percent between 2015 and 2016, volunteers flooded to the New Zealand community’s food bank. In North American Unitarian Universalist churches, children have been known to hunt for cans of food (which are then donated) rather than for Easter eggs.
  3. Spend some time in your garden. Go Gardening (NZ Nursery and Garden Industry Association) observes that “there’s no better way to put the troubles of the world behind you, than to get outside in the garden, dig the earth and plant a few plants.” Even if the garden is still under a foot of snow, the whole family can select trees and plants, make a plan, and later start to prepare the ground (by raking and composting). In the southern hemisphere, where Easter occurs in autumn, David Prosser (Down to Earth. Christchurch: Shoal Press, 1995) recommends doing heavy garden work, such as digging and rubbish removal.

A Global Community Approach to the Celebration

Learning about how different cultures approach the season is important for people celebrating Easter in New Zealand and Australia, where spring symbols are not especially relevant.

In Maori tradition autumn is when the Poututerangi star appears in the southern sky, and harvest time, marked by important ritual inspections of the kumara crop. Around the world elements of the Mabon festival (taken from Celtic tradition, and honouring death and regeneration) have been used to mark the autumnal equinox.

Among Jewish communities, the historic journey of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery is remembered in the Passover festival at about this time of year. Exploring other traditions is a way of extending the concept of community to people everywhere.

Renewing Your Approach to Easter

Symbolic acts are deeply human and may even be more important in hard times.

Many, including some psychologists, believe that making a ritual helps to create positive change. Get dressed in your best clothes and go to church for Easter, if you have always done so.

If the festive meal is important, focus on available, simple ingredients and ask others to contribute, but make it beautiful. Use your knowledge of celebrations in different traditions, as well as what you have done in the past, to make a meaningful day.

Despite recession hardship and insecurity, it could be that Easter provides an opportunity to get closer to the cycles of the earth, reach out to the community and re-examine what matters about the holiday.

Not that there’s actually anything wrong with a few chocolate eggs…

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