Living in the urban sprawl, we pay little heed to the changing of the seasons and their significance in our lives. Our ancestors however lived in tune with the changing seasons and their variations were meticulously observed both on the earth and in the skies.
Of all the four seasons, Spring held the most significance for them. The cold, harsh Winter was over and the earth was springing to life with new growth. The days were longer and warmer.
The Spring equinox on March 20 marks the triumph of light over darkness – a journey that began at the winter solstice around about December 21.
Spring signifies rebirth, resurrection and regeneration. Out with the old and in with the new. It is time to spring clean not just our physical environment but our spiritual selves too.
Ancient cultures all over the world celebrated the arrival of Spring, marked by the entry of the sun into the constellation of Aries.
Aries is a fire sign, symbolised by the Ram, it is the first sign in the Astrological calendar. This celestial event was of such monumental significance that people all over the world constructed fabulous edifices and instituted celebrations that have survived to the present time.
Stonehenge, the Sphinx, Angkor Wat, the pyramids of the Mayas and Incas and numerous other sacred sites dotted all over the globe were configured to capture the rays of the sun as it entered Aries marking the Vernal or Spring Equinox.
It is believed that the Ram is a symbol of both male and female fertility. Rams also signify abundance and rejuvenation – their fleece is shorn each season and grows back. Cornucopia, the mythical Horn of Plenty is also in the shape of a Ram’s horn.
Just as the earth is born afresh each Spring after the passing of Winter, the threads of death and resurrection run through all the myths and practices associated with spring festivals.
Some traditions believed that the spirits of their ancestors came to earth around this time to bless their living family. Homes were cleaned out and spruced up to welcome them in and food and drink were left out to offer them refreshment. These spiritual visitors would depart on the dawn of the new day.
The holiday of Nowruz is still celebrated today by the Iranians and is the official new year’s day of that country. The origins of this celebration date back to remote antiquity. While the date is 21 March, the “exact” moment is celebrated as per the astrological time that varies from year to year. In 2014, Nowruz commences on March 20, at 09:57 Los Angeles time.
The Spring festival of colours, Holi is celebrated in India around this time and Easter is celebrated by Christians all over the world on the first Sunday after the full moon on or after 21 March.
Pre Christian festivals were so deeply entrenched into the psyche of the ancients that the early Church fathers had to “adopt” these celebrations into their own calendars in a new guise – such are the origins of both Christmas and Easter, birthed in ancient astrological and mystical traditions but given a new lease of life in modern practice.