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Rotary Happenings: Celebrations of spring highlighted during weekly Rotary meeting

By Staff | Apr 26, 2017

United Congregational Church of Christ Pastor John Danner. PHOTO PROVIDED

The arrival of spring is a time of renewal, rebirth, reawakening. A time for sowing of seeds and a season of hope. Many countries around the globe celebrate this season with festivals and religious holidays rejoicing new beginnings. Our own Sanibel-Captiva Rotarian, United Congregational Church of Christ Pastor John Danner has made a study of cultural spring festivities throughout the globe and found that many of these traditional celebrations, whether religious or secular, have shared and common elements. An understanding of each other’s country’s morals and religious traditions can bring about connections of commonalities between individuals and countries leading to a purposeful and peaceful influence around the globe.

Danner highlighted two lesser known celebrations of spring Nowruz, Persian and Holi, India. He focused on their traditions and the similarities to two familiar Spring Celebrations Easter – Christian and Passover – Jewish Nowruz – “The New Day” – Iranian New Year.

The vernal equinox ushers in Nowruz, a celebration of nature’s rebirth that lasts for two weeks. This celebration dates to 3,500 BCD. Leading up to Nowruz, families thoroughly clean their homes. A complete deep cleaning; this is known as “Shaking the House.” A spiritual cleaning. “People spend the last Wednesday before Nowruz addressing their spiritual cleanliness, jumping over fire pits, and reciting a variation of the following rhyme: “Give me your beautiful red color; And take back my sickly pallor.” Sharif tells us this is a gesture of purification ahead of the new year.” (information on internet by Sara Couglin.)

They buy new clothes representing a fresh start. Set their feast table with the seven S’s -traditional symbols of the season: Subzeh -tulips and hyacinths, greenery, wheat, lentil sprouts for rebirth. Samanu-sweet pudding for strength, abundance and fertility. Seer-garlic for health. Senjed-dried fruit for love and passion. Serkeh-vinegar for wisdom, old age, patience. Seeb-apple for beauty. Somaq-sumac berries to represent purple and the colors of dawn. They decorate eggs for good luck and fertility. They may have gold fish on a mirrored table for new beginnings and a book of Rumi poetry or religious writings. A celebration where visiting with friends and family are meaningful for a resurrection of life.

Holi “Festival of Colour” India – an arrival of spring and farewell to winter – a festival of love, color, and fun symbolized by a visual explosion of bright and bold colors. The awaken of a spirit and renewal of life. It is a day to end and rid oneself of past errors, to end conflicts by meeting others, a day to forget and forgive. People pay or forgive debts, as well as deal anew with those in their lives. A renewal of spirit. Holi also marks the start of spring, for many the start of the New Year. Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that evil be destroyed. The next morning is celebrated with a free-for-all festival of colours, a new year, a new season, a new day, where people smear each other with colours and drench each other. Water guns and water-filled balloons are also used to play and colour each other. Everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders till everyone is covered with colour. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets. Groups carry drums from place to place, singing and dancing. People visit family, friends and foes to throw coloured powders on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks colorful, sweet and spiced food served with a herbal intoxication beverage. The celebration with people of love and inclusion. A time to smile and love. A time of changing of the mood, the renewal of life.

Danner didn’t have time at the podium to go into absolute detail about either of these spring celebrations and their comparisons to the meaningful celebrations of Easter and Passover. Assessments of commonalities between peoples across borders and boundaries and their faith and hope for the future and the goodness within all of us, first must come with an opening up to the possibilities of spring eternal, remembrance of the past and hope for the future.

The challenge to readers of this column is do some reading of your own on the rituals of spring throughout the world, and make your own comparisons. Understanding different cultures and religions will help us all have faith that we can come together in certain areas and help with world peace a definite focus for Rotary International.

The Sanibel and Captiva Rotary meets at 7 a.m., Friday mornings at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club. Guests are always welcomed.