In certain parts of the Netherlands an important Easter tradition is the lighting of a bonfire that has often been weeks or sometimes even months in the building. As darkness falls on Easter Sunday the paasvuur are lit, with entire villages coming out for the event.
Our friend Monique is from Overijssel, one of the Dutch provinces that celebrate Easter in this manner, and so it came about that our Easter celebrations this year included an egg hunt/bonfire. Late on a Saturday afternoon we headed out to the Piedmont for a fun evening with food, music and time spent with friends.
Once the dozens of eggs had been found by the eager little hunters (although I’m sure one or two will show up in the coming weeks…) we settled in to listen to some live tunes. Angela Easterling shared with us her lovely voice and musical talent, and the country/folk music kept us entertained until the sun set low in the sky and it was time to head out to the pasture to light the bonfire.
Monique explained that the paasvuur were community events where all generations came together to welcome spring and put the gloom of winter behind them. I found similarities to the Latvian summer solstice celebration Jāņi where bonfires also play an important part in the festivities. When looking into the origins of the seasonal celebrations by fire I noticed that although the bonfire probably has pagan roots, it was after Christianity came that it became a symbol of light and the Resurrection. The correlations between fire/light and rebirth /resurrection are strong in any case, and with the added connection to spring and the seasonal reawakening I grew to appreciate the beauty of keeping with this ancient tradition.
It was long after the stars came out and the fire started dying down that we started for home; pleasantly tired from the egg hunt, the smell of wood smoke in our hair and fingers sticky from the many s’mores consumed. The evening was a great reminder that sharing culture and traditions with others only makes us all richer for the experience – thank you to Monique and family for opening their home to us and bringing a little of the Netherlands to South Carolina!