We all wait for spring to come, perhaps nowhere with as much anticipation as in Canada. In Northern Canada, the celebration of light comes even as winter moves into its coldest time, with a celebration of the first sunrise after the sun disappears for a while in December and early January. In Inuvik, since 1988 the town has celebrated that first sunrise in January, people turning their faces to sun to be nourished by its healing power.
Across much of Europe, spring comes a little earlier than in Canada, linked closely to the religious observance of Easter. I remember asking a friend from Australia about Easter celebrations in that country; rooted in European traditions, I wondered how Easter was celebrated there given its close connections to the cycles of new life and renewal while in Australia the nation is headed towards its winter. That’s easy, he told me, we just pretend it’s spring. Easter is filled with celebrations of life: its restoration, energy and hope. The symbols of eggs and rabbits suggest fertility and new life, even as the church proclaims resurrection.
It is not only Christian cultures which look forward to spring. We all long for a time of renewal, the celebration of life, whether or not it is linked to specific ideas of resurrection. This past week marked the sacred holy day of Holi in the Hindu calendar. Celebrated in India and around the world, Holi is a time of regeneration and renewal, and a time of celebration. Holi is linked back to mythological love stories of the gods; it heralds spring in celebrating relationships, through visits with family and friends, sharing good food, and of course the coloured powders which are exuberantly tossed on others.
The Sikh observance of Hola Mohalla, just three days after Holi, is a time of honouring the faith and the connection to the Sikh community, and is implicitly a celebration of renewal not only to the faith but to life in the springtime of the year. In Thailand, the Songkran water festival, shortly after the spring equinox, involves many practices including water being tossed on participants. In Japan, sakura, or cherry blossom, season is a visible reminder of the coming of spring; along river banks, where cherry trees bloom, people wander to view the blossoms and to have a picnic, reaffirming family ties and the joy of life as spring returns.
We all need such celebration. It is not quite spring in Sackville, but the equinox is coming. Our own small observance of our hope for spring to come tends to be limited to watching the awakening of groundhogs in early February. While St Patrick’s Day is not specifically tied to spring, certainly the exuberance with which it is celebrated in North America suggests the need to let loose a little, to throw off the inhibitions of winter and to revel in the coming season.
At heart, all the different celebrations of the coming of light, warmth and new growth are linked to the idea of a new beginning, hope, and the promise of new life, even as the assurance is given that goodness will triumph over evil, even life over death. I think we all need to celebrate spring this month, with the coming of warmth, light, new growth, and the assurance that was given by the mystic and religious hermit Julian of Norwich in the 14th century: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”