Spring Celebrations – We Are More Alike Than Different

I’ve been practicing one of my favorite past-times, gazing out the window in between appointments.  I look across the valley, noticing the trees in bloom, the changes in the colors in the hills and the mountains in the distance.  It is in these moments that I ponder questions for which I don’t have answers, and when I receive inspiration.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend all day gazing in blissful reverie out the window.

Focusing on the distant landscape provides me with a unique perspective.  It reminds me that I’m not the center of the Universe (even though at times I think I should be).    Each time I look out, the world continues to change before my eyes.

The angle of the light, the clouds (or lack of), the color of the sky, the color of the trees, (and more) change each time I gaze out the window.  One day I wondered what people in distant lands see as they gaze at their world. What are the changes that Spring brings (or in the Southern Hemisphere, Fall) that others observe?

My daydreaming led to questions about Spring celebrations and festivals.  Spring contains important holidays for the Christian and Jewish faiths.  What does it mean for other beliefs?   Is Spring a significant season for other world religions?

I did some research and discovered commonalities across religions.  Spring is the time of year when multiple religions hold observations that celebrate birth, death, ascension (or rebirth), atonement and forgiveness.

Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi, a historical and religious holiday that signifies the new year and includes a harvest festival.  Hindus celebrate Holi, the festival of colors, love and thanksgiving.  Holi signifies the triumph of good over evil.  Celebrants begin the night before, praying for their internal evil to be destroyed.  The next day, they spray each other with colored powders and water, in honor of Lord Vishnu, and visit with family and friends.

Mahavir Jayanti is the most important religious holiday for Jains.  It is a celebration of the birth of Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha and a great sage and prophet within the Jain faith.  The festival of Ridvan is when the Baha’is remember their founder and his declaration as God’s messenger for the age (1860s).

Passover, is a celebration of Spring and re-birth.    It is the time in which Jewish people remember the liberation of the Israelites from slavery by God.  The foods of the Seder meal are visual, olfactory, and gustatory reminders of the journey to freedom.  There is also a focus on personal responsibility and community.

Easter for Christians (whether Orthodox or Western) is the foundation of their faith.  The resurrection of Jesus signifies proof that he was the son of God and that those who follow him will receive eternal salvation.  The dates, and the observations may be different across the various Christian groups, but the emphasis is on forgiveness and resurrection.

Pagans celebrate Beltane, a fire festival that represents the return to life.  Fires are ignited to burn away the darkness of Winter, and to celebrate the fertility of the coming year.

In May Muslims observe Lailat al Bara’a, the Night of Forgiveness.  This night is a time for Muslims to pray and ask God for forgiveness of their sins.  Special sweets are made and given to children and the poor in the community.

Buddhists celebrate Vesak, a day that represents the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.  It is one of the most important celebrations for Buddhists throughout the year.  Each Buddhist culture has its own specific traditions regarding the festival, for example: light displays, flower decorations, the release of caged birds, and prayers in the temple.

As I read about the various Spring holidays and observations, I was reminded again and again, how we are more alike than different.  We believe in something bigger than ourselves.  We are thankful for the delivery from a time of darkness (a lack of light or lack of freedom).  We atone for our sins, focus on behaviors that support our beliefs, and spend our time with our families and communities.

We share the stories and the mysteries of our religions.  Stories of Gods, of the birth of a prophet, a journey to freedom, a return from exile, death, and ascension or enlightenment.

In other words, we celebrate light, life, renewal, and the bounty of the Universe.  At a time when the world (and specifically our country), seems to be more focused on difference, the emphasis on “us versus them,” I want to concentrate on the similarities.

I don’t want to focus on non-cooperation, implied threats, and disregard for the needs of others.  I want to call out and emphasize the importance of an inclusive community.

Whether a Jain, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Bahai’, Jew, Hindu, Shih, or Pegan*, we believe in something that is bigger than ourselves.  We try to be the best people we can, following the precepts of our beliefs.

Now, when I gaze out the window at the hills, I pretend that each tree represents a person with a different belief.  If I focus on an individual tree, I can see the beauty of it, alone.  When I change my perspective, I see the entire mix of colors and textures that create an amazing tapestry, and I’m grateful for the diversity.

Perhaps what we need to do now is change our perspective, take a step back to get the broader view, look for the commonalities, not the differences.  Let’s celebrate Spring in a new way and begin again to connect.

*This list does not include all the religious or spiritual beliefs in the world.