This primary assembly looks at the actual and the Christian symbolic arrival of spring, as well as the traditions of Lent and the Green Man

Resources
Pictures of crocuses, daffodils, chicks, lambs, apple blossom, swallows, and so on.

Introduction
The first day of March is the first official day of spring. Sometimes that sounds like a funny thing to say – like saying it’s the first day of summer but wanting the heating on, and hearing the rain beat down outside when all you want to do is stay tucked under your duvet. Or saying it’s the first day of winter when the sun is shining and it feels warm enough to walk about with your coat undone.

Well the first of March really is the first official day of spring and this year it really feels like it. It’s weird to think that just a couple of weeks ago half the country was covered under a thick blanket of snow and the rest was being deluged with heavy rain, yet now, just a couple of weeks later, the temperature is warmer and we’ve seen a gentle sun for the first time this year!

But there are also other signs that spring is on its way. Have you seen any signs, in parks or in gardens, that spring is here? [Take suggestions]

Yes, you might have seen crocuses, or daffodils, or green buds on trees or plants, or if you’ve driven through the countryside you may have seen baby lambs skipping about the fields. If you’re really lucky you might have seen the first swallows flying back from spending their winter in warmer countries, or you might have seen the pretty, delicate blossom of apple trees. The hours of daylight are getting longer, too. Instead of being dark at 4 o’clock, like it is in December, the sun is going down at 6 o’clock and rising earlier as well, so we have about four hours more daylight each day.

Even the word ‘spring’ describes the season: the warmer weather causes plants to “spring forth” or “spring into bud”.

Spring is seen as a time of growth and new life and, for Christians, it’s the season of renewal at Easter; when Christ rose again after the Crucifixion.

In Arabic countries like Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, the first day of spring is called ‘Nowruz’ which means ‘new year’.

Story
Louise and her granddad were walking along the road to the local church, their arms full of bright bunches of daffodils.

“I do love daffodils,” said Louise’s granddad. “They’re such cheerful, cheeky flowers. I love to see them brightening up the garden in the spring. And they’re so brave – even though it’s spring, there could still be some chilly winds to come.”

“They’ll brighten up the church, too,” said Louise.

“Yes, they’ll look lovely,” said granddad. “We’ll put some into displays and the rest can be given out to people as they leave church on Sunday. It’ll be a nice reminder.”
Louise was puzzled. “A reminder of what, Granddad?”

“Well, daffodils are one of the few flowers, along with crocuses, that appear in the early spring,” said granddad. “To Christians, spring is a very important time of year. Not long ago it was Shrove Tuesday and you made pancakes with your dad. That’s a traditional way of using up food in the kitchen to show that the period of Lent has begun, a time when, traditionally, Christians fast and pray and think about the fact that Easter is just around the corner. But today people usually just give up one of their favourite things instead of fasting; for instance, you’ve given up chocolate and I’ve given up having a pint of beer at the pub.” He sighed. “It’s not easy giving up the things you like, is it?”

Louise agreed. She liked the idea of giving up her chocolate until Easter as a way of remembering Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights of temptation in the desert, but she did really miss having a chocolate bar at lunch time.

Her granddad went on. “Seeing the spring arrive is a hopeful time for all of us: it’s a promise of warmer days to come and a reminder that gardens will soon be bursting with flowers and plants. It’s a hopeful time for Christians, too. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, giving hope to all mankind.”

“Mind you, the traditions of celebrating spring go back much further than the time of Jesus Christ. People have always celebrated the end of winter and the start of spring. My local pub is called the Green Man. He’s a pre-Christian symbol of plants and fertility and spring. There are Green Man traditions all over the world. He’s much older than any of the major religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

“We’ve even got a carving of the Green Man in our church,” he said. “Remember I showed it to you?”

Louise nodded. “But I thought you said he wasn’t a Christian figure,” she said.

“That’s not quite what I said. He’s a myth that pre-dates Christianity. Early Christians saw no harm in celebrating spring with a mixture of old beliefs and new ones. Sometimes I wish we could all be as understanding of other people’s beliefs today.”

“I like the carving of the Green Man,” she said, “but I wish we had carvings of baby lambs, too. I always think they’re like spring: all bouncy and happy.”

Her granddad smiled. “You’re absolutely right. And, of course, there were lambs beside Jesus’ manger when he was born.”

“I never really understood that,” said Louise. “Jesus was born on Christmas Day, so how could there have been lambs that early? There might have been snow. They’d have got cold, poor baby lambs!”

Her granddad smiled. “Well, don’t forget that Jesus was born in Israel and that’s a much, much warmer country than ours. I expect the winters are much milder there and lambs are born a little bit earlier.”

“So Spring is at different times of year in different countries?” said Louise.

“That’s right,” said her granddad. “If we were in Australia it would be the first day of autumn!”

Conclusion
Louise learned a bit more about the traditions of spring and why many people in different countries and of different religions agree that the first day of spring is really something to celebrate.

PrayerDear Father,Thank you for giving us the seasons so that we can appreciate the wonderful changes around us. All your seasons are special but spring reminds us that you gave the world hope when your Son, Jesus, arose from the Cross.

Amen.

Reflection
Spring is a hopeful time for everyone with the promise of warmer and kinder weather to come and the renewal of life as our gardens and parks bloom again.

Poems about Spring
Spring, the Sweet Spring, Thomas Nashe
Spring Quiet, Christina Rossetti
Daffodils, William Wordsworth

Or this simple couplet from A E Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2009

About the author: Jane A. C. West

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