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 peaceful 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!” If we hoped they would take away some important lessons from each of the rituals that cause people of diverse convictions 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, 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 or its variations is celebrated with foods that mark the various tastes of the year to come: bitter, sweet, sour and fiery, followed by fresh clothes, clean home, visits to loved ones, and symbols of goods’ 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 SE 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.
Earth Day also falls right around these holy days, marking a common stewardship of the planet across all faiths and traditions.
I could not find an Islamic holiday falling in April. Perhaps this could have special significance for Muslims, particularly those in the Middle East and North Africa. As the last few months have been called the “Arab Spring,” this could serve as an especially poignant reminder – a time to gather the lessons of the ages to build hopeful democracies: consider the lessons of Freedom, Renewal, Resurrection, Redemption, Liberation and Justice that all the world’s faiths encourage us to realize. Perhaps taken together, this vision of a world in celebration this spring could bring us closer to the ideals we all hope for. It certainly makes for important lessons to teach our children.
(A version of this appeared on GOOD.)