One of the interesting things about being Swedish-American, and living in the South East on top of that, is just how different certain things are from Northern climates. Spring comes earlier for us than for others and this leads to some significant differences in holidays. If I lived in a climate where it is still snowing this time of year, I would be looking at the promise of warm weather while still freezing my happy butt off. Living in the Atlanta area means that I have been listening to the birds singing for about two weeks now and we are finally regularly above 45°F at night and have had some Highs getting close to 70°F a couple of times this past week. For me, Vårblotet is about helping the last remnants of the sleeping land to wake up rather than acting as the alarm clock telling the world around me that it’s time to get up.
When I was a little boy, we lived in Northern Illinois and I recall several times where there was still some snow on the ground and plenty of cold mornings waiting for the school bus. The land was just starting to thaw under the brighter sun and longer daylight hours. Looking at the weather forecast for Sweden this week shows that it is snowing there and it won’t be until later this week that they finally get above freezing, and then only barely. It gives me reason to pause and think about how hard life must have been for our ancestors.
It comes to mind that this should be a time of year for celebrating the promise of the coming warmth but it is also a time of year where means are lean. Food stores are depleted and even when you can start planting food crops again, you still have to wait for them to grow. The land is still dangerous, as slightly warmer weather brings with it a different list of threats and dangers. Just how thin is the ice on the lake, anyway? Do you dare try and do some fishing or will it give way beneath you? Whether we are in warmer climates like me, or still in frozen lands waiting for the all too short Summertime to come, we have a great number of benefits today that our traditions don’t always account for any more. Many of these things hold true for other Germanic lands, like England, where Eostre / Ostara activities are all around folks. The weather is warmer than Scandinavia but the Anglo-Saxons would still have faced food shortages and potential surprises of sudden and unexpected cold snaps. A sudden snow storm could easily ruin plans for planting crops and even kill of early growth. And lets not forget about the very real threat of raids or theft. When you have so little, someone coming and taking what you have is almost a death sentence in its own right.
As you prepare for whatever Springtime holiday you are planning to celebrate, take some time to consider what this time of year really meant to our ancestors and why it was both a time of joy and fear. Take some time to be thankful for our modern age where food is so much more plentiful and many things are year round, especially for those of us who are American, in availability. Think of the farmers in your country that are gearing up to start planting their crops and just how easily those crops could be ruined by cold or flood.