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"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy Spring Holiday!

As today's the official scientific date for the beginning of spring, I thought it might be nice to revisit a blog post of yore which I've copied below. Watch this blog for a special post on Easter Day - an Easter Egg surprise :)

Navroze mubarak! Happy Ostara! It's spring equinox!

I love the Internet. How else could I keep track of all my favorite holidays? My Google calendar tells me today isNavroz (Wikipedia link), the Zoroastrian New Year as celebrated in India. Salim Merchant also reminds me of it. He's a favorite Indian composer whose wanderings I've been fan-following on Twitter lately; he wishes his followers a "navroze mubarak" and a link to an UberTwitter photo, which turns out to be a screenshot of a GoogleMaps locator of Mumbai, where he lives, most famously known home of the extraordinary Parsi community which has so enriched Indian culture.

(My customary Disclaimer here: I am not an expert in any of this, just a fascinated individual able to connect with the world through the Internet.) In case you don't know, the Parsis are Zoroastrian Indians who migrated to the west coast of India in the tenth century (c.e.) to escape persecution by Muslims, who were then overrunning Iran with their new religion and their Arabic influences. (Iranis are the other Zoroastrian Indians.)

Here's a charming blog post I came across, titled "Being Bawa on Navroze at Udwada," by a Parsi about her Navroze family celebration and telling something about the traditions in a very colorful and interesting way. I loved it! I gather, from context, that bawa must mean getting up to the nines in holiday finery, and learned that Udwada, on the Gujarat coast, is the home of the essential historic temple that all Parsis long to visit in their lifetimes: "On New Year, the sleepy village awakens just that wee bit as visitors from Mumbai, Pune, Valsad, Surat, Lucknow and even Canada, Pakistan and Australia, throng to the most-sacred and oldest and perennially-burning fire in the world."  Go to the post for much more. There are some wonderful pictures too.

Of course, as a Northern California girl with a mostly Norwegian ethnic background, I didn't exactly grow up jumping over fires in the traditional Zoroastrian celebration, but I've felt a kind of affinity with the holiday ever since reading some books in recent years, Jumping Over Fire (reviewed here) and Searching for Hassan  (reviewed here). They're both set in Iran, and both include Norooz celebrations as the jumping-off point for the narratives.

Navroz (which is spelled any number of ways and is celebrated in many countries besides India and Iran, and not just by Zoroastrians anymore) happens on the vernal equinox, the secular spring. Most of us think of equinoxes as the two days in the year (spring and fall) when day and night are of equal length, and know this happens on account of the tilt of the earth's axis in relation to the sun, and that's good enough for most of us, but the Wikipedia entry (linked above) does delve into a lot of interesting technicalities, including the rather more specific point that the equinox is really the time on the calendar in which "two observers the same distance north and south of the equator will experience nights of the same length" and that the term for days of equal length is (for obvious reasons) equilux.  I have to put in a plug for that Wikipedia entry here - it also includes a great section on cultural aspects of the equinox.

So it's the spring equinox: happy Ostara, everyone, too! That's the original spring seasonal observance of my European ancestors, from which the Christians appropriated Easter. When the Christians conquered our land in the sixth century (c.e.) and imposed their religion on my ancestors (they called this often-violent process "conversion," I believe) they outlawed previous spiritual observances including Ostara (just as the extremist Muslims keep trying to do with Navroz; what is it about these Great Religions?), but, in their clever way, instead of stamping it out entirely, the Christians took it over and gave it a spin, by adding a couple of other calculations: so now Easter is based not just on the Equinox, but on the current full moon following the Equinox (oops, still too pagan - Moon Goddess and all that - better add another step) and then the day of the week after that (it must be on a Sunday). (Wait, Christians - don't you know Sunday is the day named after the SUN??? As in solar observations, such as Ostara?) And it's still named Easter, and just look up the derivation of that word.
Not sure what the moral of the story is, but people all over the world and through the ages keep celebrating the March Equinox as the universal Spring day. And as the true New Year. Certainly, as Wikipedia says, it's the "precise moment in time which is common to all observers on Earth." And the "Nov" sound in the various spellings of Novroze (Nowruz, Newroz, Nooruz, Navroz, etc.) is the root for our English "new." So - mubarak, everyone! A good time to start over. Wishing peace to all!

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