By Maeven Eller-Five
The March Of Spring
The festive month of March is full of celebrations around the world meant to commemorate the arrival of Spring. For the most part, all of these observations are full of fun and frolic, deep rooted tradition, and almost always, good food. Furthermore, most of these March observations are rooted in our collective need to let our hair down.
The Hindu Festival of Holi – The Festival of Color
Marking the arrival of Spring, Holi happens on March 2nd. Taking place over two days, Holi is a joyous, boisterous, celebration of fertility, color, love, community, as well as the triumph of good over evil.
People celebrate Holi all around the world, more now than ever. However, India and Nepal know the highest concentration of attendees. Probably best known for the brightly colored powders, called gulal, that the crowds delight in throwing at one and other. But Holi is much more; it is an event that happens in two very distinct parts: Holika Dahan and Rangwali Holi.
Holika Dahan is observed the night before Rangwali Holi. A symbolic pyre is lit to represent good defeating evil. The date of Rangwali Holi synchronizes with the moon; therefore the celebration varies from one year to the next.
An ancient celebration, one origin story traces the holiday back to a fourth-century poem drawing on the legend of Radha and Krishna. Krishna loved Radha, but the differences in their skin-colored troubled Krishna. His mother advised him to paint her face transforming it to the same color as his which explains why lovers celebrate this day together throwing the colored powder on each other.
The Jewish Holiday of Purim
Purim is a holiday of fun and frolic. This year the celebration starts at sundown on Wednesday, March 20th. Celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from imminent danger visited upon them by their enemies of ancient Persia as found in the Book of Esther.
A large part of the Purim custom is to read and hear, the Purim story from the scroll of Esther. It is also called the Megillah. During the reading of the Megillah at the synagogue, when the evil Haman’s name is read the people boo, shake their groggers, hoot and howl to show their dislike of him with feeling. Unlike most occasions spent at the synagogue, many read from the Megillah while wearing a costume. These days these costumes have taken on a more Halloween like nature.
Unlike more solemn synagogue occasions, both adults and children participate in the Megillah reading while in mainstream costumes. Traditionally people came dressed as characters from the Purim story. Now, people enjoy dressing up in all manner of funny costumes. The tradition of dressing up honors Esther who concealed her Jewish identity.
As is with most Jewish holidays, food factors largely into the ceremonies. One commandment is to fill prepared foods into baskets along with drinks to share with others. Jews also share a celebratory meal called the Purim se’udah, and drink heavily as part of Jewish law.
The Pagan Sabbat Of Ostara
Ostara, also known as Eostre or Eastre, is the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring and the dawn. She is depicted as a maiden, adorned in the season’s first flowers, budding trees, and light. Ostara is also the origin for the modern holiday of Easter, originally the name used for Spring Equinox. The name “Eostre, is related to Eos, a Greek goddess of the dawn.
As Ostara falls on the equinox, it’s activities are celebrated with spring festivities of fertility and renewal, by planting seeds, and refreshing our homes and hearths. Before the Celts and Saxons were conquered by the Romans some 2,000 years ago, this was the time they revered the earth and gave thanks for the return of Spring.
After coming through Winter, and the hard lean times of that season, Ostara was a time to be grateful. With the promise of longer days on the horizon, it was a happy time. Knowing that food would be more abundant with each passing day, hope grew. It was now time to plant the seeds again, so come the time to harvest, there would be enough food for the coming winter. Again, the wheel turns.