As snowdrifts give way to crocuses and daffodils, our spirits come alive with the promises of spring: warmer temperatures, bursts of color and the wealth of fun activities connected to springtime holidays.
We hear plenty about certain holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day, Passover and Easter, but how much do we know about Holi, Mahavir Jayanti or Lailat al Miraj? It can feel overwhelming to try connecting to holidays with thousand-year-old histories coming from languages and cultures different from our own. DPLife believes that interfaith awareness is vital for world peace, because we all hold a bit of truth. When we take the time to explore the traditions of others, we discover that the things each of us treasures are not so different after all.
Here are some of the many holidays observed between March and May. Taking a look at the common themes they share, we may consider marking our calendars to celebrate a holiday we’ve never experienced before!
Everything Is New Again
Winter isn’t the only season that welcomes the new year; many religions and cultures prefer to start the year at the beginning of springtime, also known as the Vernal Equinox (March 20). This season includes the Nanakshahi or Sikh New Year (March 14) and Nowruz, the Zoroastrian, Bahá’í and traditional Iranian new year holiday (March 21). In preparation for the new year, Bahá’ís observe a nineteen-day fast similar to Ramadan from the Muslim faith.
The new year is a great time to set resolutions and determine to improve ourselves, but it isn’t the only time the process need occur, as the Hindu holiday of Holi (March 23) illustrates. Known as the “Festival of Colors” due to the throwing of colorful powder, this ritual is based on the love story of Krishna and Radha and serves as a playful visual reminder that in essence, we are all the same. It is a day to forgive past errors and renew relationships.
Sacrifice and Leaps of Faith
Alternatively, some spring holidays focus on sacrifice. The Jewish eight-day observance of Passover (April 22-30) recalls the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, as told in the Book of Exodus, and is highlighted by the seder meal. Christianity’s Holy Week honors the enormous tests of faith of Jesus’ final days on earth, beginning on Palm Sunday (March 20) through Good Friday (March 25), remembering Jesus’ solemn crucifixion, to the celebration of his victorious resurrection on Easter Sunday (March 27; May 1 for the Orthodox calendar) and his return to heaven on Ascension Day (May 5).
These more somber holidays help us to remember that just as a seedling must push through dirt to reach the sunlight, we all need to pass through hardships to reach the blessing of new life.
The Anointed and Appointed
The theme of emergence often found in springtime isn’t limited to flora and fauna; spring also sees an extraordinary emergence of leaders called by God to serve the world in a big way. For example, the Jain holiday of Mahavir Jayanti (April 19) celebrates the birth of Mahavira, the most important prophet of the Jain faith. The Festival of Ridván (April 21 to May 2) marks the twelve days that Bahá’í founder Bahá‘u’lláh spent in the Garden of Ridván before publicly declaring his mission as God’s messenger. May 20 is the Buddhist festival of Vesak, honoring the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. Lailat al Miraj (May 3) honors the Prophet Muhammad’s spiritual ascension and instruction by God that Muslims pray five times daily, while Pentecost (May 15) commemorates the Holy Spirit’s descent upon Jesus’ Apostles and is regarded as the beginning of the Christian church’s mission to the world. Finally, Easter Sunday 1936 was the day when Rev. Sun Myung Moon received his mission as God’s modern-day messenger.
What do these days of remembrance have to do with us? Time and again, spiritual leaders come forward in ways we do not expect. Greatness is needed everywhere, in all walks of faith, and the next leader God is searching for just might be you.
Which of these holidays would you like to try celebrating? Do you celebrate any spring holidays that didn’t make our list? Share them with us in the comments below.