Many sacred holidays from several traditions converge within the same few weeks of the year. What can we learn from each?
I’m often amazed by the convergence of so many important, sacred holidays within the same few weeks of the year. If a being from a different planet came to earth this week and got a bird’s eye view, I wonder what lessons they would take away from this coming together on the calendar? I doubt they’d take sides—as in “this tradition good, that one is bunk!” All of them ask people to change their routine in honor of something bigger. Here are some lessons they might take away:
From Passover (Pesach), the Jewish holiday: The ritual Seder dinner involving all the senses serves as a parable for and about children, reliving the Exodus of Moses and his loyal believers, embarking on a journey marked by hardship, but ultimately filled with hope and optimism for a brighter future, toward freedom—from oppression, want, and indignity.
From Vaisakhi, the Sikh holiday: This day marks the establishment of the concept of the Saint-Soldier, whose courage is rooted in standing up for the freedom of any oppressed human being, all of whom are children of the same One Creator, to be treated equally regardless of gender, caste, or beliefs.
From Mahavir Jayanti, the Jain holiday: This marks the birth of the last of the Jain prophets who was believed to have conquered all human vice; the sacred holiday serves as a reminder of the qualities of renunciation from materialism, charity, justice, nonviolence, and honesty.
From Christian Holy Week, Culminating on Easter Sunday: The suffering of Jesus, dying on the cross, followed by his miraculous resurrection, exemplifies divine grace and humanity’s hope for redemption and renewal, even amidst the worst crises.
From Ugadi (and other names), the New Year for various regions’ Hindus: This festivity and its variations are celebrated with foods that mark the various tastes of the year to come: bitter, sweet, sour, and fiery, followed by fresh clothes, a clean home, visits to loved ones, and symbols of good’s triumph over evil. The idea of renewal is coupled with the realities of life’s trials, and hope for goodness as the ultimate victor.
From Theravadin, the Buddhist New Year (in Southeast Asia): Renewal is marked by celebratory food, visits to temples, fresh and new items for home and person. These help begin a new cycle, as in nature. People also might be splashed with water—amidst revelry—to symbolize a cleansing from past sins.
From Ridvan, the Baha’i holiday: The Ridvan festival marks Baha’u’llah’s publicly announcing His sacred mission centered in the realization of the oneness of humanity, justice, and a renewal God’s purpose for humanity to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. It is symbolized by roses, as thousands were brought to honor Baha’u’llah prior to His embarking on yet another journey in His long exile.
I could not find an Islamic holiday falling in April, but as the last few months have been called the “Arab Spring,” perhaps this time could also serve as a poignant reminder of the struggle for democracy. And taken together, maybe this vision of a world in celebration this spring could bring us closer to the ideals we all hope for.
Homa Sabet Tavangar is the author of Growing up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World (Ballantine/Random House), named a “Best New Parenting Book” and praised by Dr. Jane Goodall. She’s the mom of three girls ages 7 to 17, and a frequent speaker and advisor on global perspectives to corporations and K-12 communities.