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spring equinox: celebrations from India, Persia, Mexico

Spring!  It’s arriving here in the northern hemisphere. The Spring Equinox is when the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north.  It’s a time of growth and bloom (in the garden and in ourselves) as the chilly days tend to wane off and the sun spends more time shining down on us. And to many around the world, it's a time to celebrate the end of cold winter months and the arrival of a new season.

Persia:  Jumping Over Fires and Creating an Alter
Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, translates to "New Day" in Farsi. Celebrated for over 3,000 years, this secular holiday is rich with symbolism and tradition. Leading up to the spring equinox, families set up a "haft-seen," a collection of items symbolizing different hopes for the new year. Similar to an altar, the haft-seen can take on different variations but always has at least seven specific items on display:  sabzeh, or some kind of grass or sprout for rebirth and renewal;  senjed, or dried fruit to sweeten the year; sib, or apples for beauty and health; seer, or garlic for medicine; samanu, or sweet pudding for wealth and fertility; serkeh, or vinegar for patience and wisdom; and sumac, a Persian spice for patience and tolerance. The actual celebrations start on the Tuesday before the new year. This holiday is called chahar shanbeh soori and is celebrated by jumping over fires and chanting "fire take my weakness and give me your strength." The fire symbolizes burning up your shortcomings and giving you it's power to bring with you into the new year. Unlike waiting until midnight for new years day to strike like we do in the west, the Persian New Year starts the exact moment of the vernal equinox. This moment is usually spent with close family and friends, eating abundant amounts food in front of the haft-seen and kissing and hugging blessings for the year ahead. Thirteen days after the new year is Sizdah Bedar, or Nature's Day. During this celebration, families come together to picnic outdoors - while staying inside on this day is seen as bad luck.

India:  Throwing Color and Sins Aside
Holi Festival, or the Hindu spring festival of colors is celebrated on the last full moon of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month. This year is will take place on March 21st, the same day as Persian New Year. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil and the arrival of spring. Like Persian New Year, the end of winter marks a celebration for the Hindus - a time to play and laugh, forget and forgive, and step into a new colorful season. Celebrated all across India, this ancient festival was first mentioned in a 4th century poem. Stemming from Hindu tales of gods and victories of good over evil, Hindus see this day as a time to rid themselves of evil demons before starting anew. All over the country, people old and young, rich and poor, throw colored powder on each other in fits of glee. The color signifies the sins, when washed off at the end of the day you are reborn and clean. Traditionally, the powder is made of turmeric, paste and flower extracts. The four main powder colors are red, blue, yellow and green. Red for love and fertility, blue for Krishna, yellow for turmeric and green for new beginnings.

Mexico:  Receiving the Sun’s Energy
Spring Equinox in Teotihuacán is celebrated at the ancient Mayan pyramids just north of Mexico City. Thousands of celebrators climb the pyramid steps to the very top on the first day of spring. Wearing all white to receive the sun's heat, they lift up their arms and bask in it's warmth, soaking up it's energy for the new season. Many Mexicans also take this sacred time to reconnect with their Mayan roots, dressing in ceremonial garb with fringe and feathers and playing drums,  burning incense, dancing and cleansing as the sun makes it's way over the pyramid.

We love these spring traditions because they are so deeply intertwined to the natural cycles of the earth - harnessing deeper connections to ourselves and our planet.


photo: Holi Festival, Chandigarh, Punjab, India

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