Some eight or so miles south of the University City of Cambridge lies a small village that holds a festival to celebrate one particular flower. The flower's predominant colour is yellow and it has as part of the bloom a kind of trumpet shape and it also has a tendency to wave around a lot in the wind. Its name of course is daffodil.
And for those of you who like to know where words come from, how about this? The word was originally affodill and that comes from the Latin asphodilus, which means asphodel. Still with me? That last word is a poetic name for an immortal flower that, according to the Greeks, grows in Elysium where you go after death. Clearly a flower not to be messed with! The English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth (1770-1850) also took a shine to the daffodil and even wrote a poem about it. Here is the first verse:
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
You can't really travel far at the moment without bumping into the odd 'host' here and there. I've got quite a few of them that have been knocked sideways in the wind in my garden or as the Americans say, in my backyard. But back to my small village. Last year the festival (usually around the end of March) had a hard time because the daffodils had made up their minds it was far too nippy (cold) to bloom and decided to keep their little trumpets to themselves. This year they've come out early and the question is will they still be around when the festival opens? Whatever happens, you can be sure that this 'dancing' flower indicates that Spring is definitely on the way. If you want me to go all poetic again, I'd say it's a harbinger (forerunner) of Spring. Putting it more plainly we say that Spring has sprung because it suddenly appears it, as it were, springs up all of a sudden. Of course knowing the English weather (and we've known each other now a long time) by the time you read this, it could well be snowing heavily in my neck of the woods. It's the time of year when all sorts of things happen. People fall in love. Of course they do that all the time but Spring is a popular season for this kind of pastime. Mind you hares are particularly good at it and are known to go quite barmy towards the end of March at the very thought of it. Since the 16th century in fact someone who as we say is one sandwich short of a picnic or loopy or prone to do crazy things has been described as mad as a March hare. March clearly has a dodgy reputation. There is a saying that if March comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion and conversely if it comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb. By the sound of the howling gales I heard last night, I reckon it's the turn of the lion.
For Christians at this time of the year there is the festival of Easter. The word 'Easter' itself is supposed to have come from the name of a goddess associated with Spring. As with Christmas the actual naming of the Christian festival is muddled up with some kind of pagan ritual. The festival extends over Good Friday through Easter Sunday to Easter Monday and is primarily concerned with the resurrection of Jesus Christ after the crucifixion. The term moveable feast applies here because Easter is not always at the same time of the year. There is a formula for calculating when Easter falls:
Easter is the first Sunday after the Full Moon that occurs on or after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox (March 21). If the Full Moon falls on a Sunday then Easter is the next Sunday. This means in effect that Easter can fall as early as March 22nd or as late as April 25th. This year Easter Sunday will be April 8th. As you can imagine, there are various customs and traditions linked with Easter and eggs play a major part in all of them. The egg represents the idea of new life. At breakfast hard-boiled eggs are eaten and at lunch roast lamb. Chocolate eggs are given as presents and colourfully wrapped chocolate eggs are hidden for children to find in the garden known as the Egg Hunt. So far you might say, things are relatively normal but then our friend the mad March hare has an influence on Easter Monday. In some villages hard-boiled eggs are rolled down the hill to see which travels the furthest. In another village a hare pie is baked then blessed and the pie is then ripped apart and pieces are thrown to the assembled crowd. After that certain individuals no doubt sated on hare pie start to take part in Bottle Kicking. Three small barrels of beer are kicked and pushed by opposing teams from two different villages – each trying to get all three barrels to a certain line in their village. Oh and the one I like is Egg Tapping where the winning egg is the survivor that remains whole having been knocked by all the other eggs. This then becomes the Good Egg, which is also a popular expression for a thoroughly likeable and reliable person.
I think now the time has come to return to the sanity of the daffodil. Who better than William to end my letter as he describes what happens when he finds what he calls: the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Enjoy the Spring
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