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A Tale of Three Holidays

One common thread of humanity that unites us all is: The Holiday!

People everywhere in the world love holidays. This year, in 2021, the Jewish holiday of Passover falls on the same dates as the Indian Festival of Love and Color known as Holi: March 28 and 29. And Easter Sunday 2021 is April 4.

Is this close timing a coincidence? Actually, it’s not.

Each of these holidays is based on the lunar cycle. They’re all intended to fall near, or on, a spring full moon. The Hindu festival of Holi is traditionally celebrated on the last full moon of the lunar month. Passover begins on the night of a full moon after the northern vernal equinox. And Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. Christians call this the “Paschal Moon.”

In the case of Passover and Easter precise dates – while based on the lunar cycle – are calculated with different calendars. The Christian calendar is based on the position of the sun, while the Hebrew calendar is determined by both the sun and the moon.

Each holiday commemorates the beginning of spring and new life after a long winter. In that sense, all three hail back to spring planting festivals of antiquity. Societies since ancient times have come together to mark the start of spring. Each holiday also celebrates a freedom/liberation theme, echoing the freedom that the earth’s rebirth brings to all. Countless texts since ancient times have described the religious and cultural traditions of each of these important holidays; below is a short synopsis that shows how each holiday celebrates a type of freedom.

Passover commemorates the freedom from slavery of Jews in ancient Egypt. This is an “oral history” holiday. That means the Passover tale is passed on verbally. This happens at an annual Passover Seder. During the Seder participants read out loud from a “Haggadah” booklet that retells the story, while marking events with ceremonial food items and wine.

Easter commemorates freedom as symbolized by the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his brutal crucifixion. Easter follows Good Friday, which marks the crucifixion itself. The traditions of the Easter Bunny and decorated eggs are tied to Easter as a spring rebirth celebration and can be traced to ancient times. Eggs were believed to represent fertility. The exact origins of the Easter Bunny are unknown, but baby bunnies are historically associated with spring’s rebirth.

Holi commemorates the freedom of good triumphing over evil via the defeat of an evil king (who was granted immortality) by a young man of great faith in the Hindi god Lord Vishnu. Bonfires signify the burning of evil spirits. People throw brightly colored powder into the air. Red symbolizes spring and rebirth; each color has meaning. Sweets are given to family and friends — as with Easter and the Easter basket — and everyone gathers for festive meals.

Perhaps the most important thing these holidays share is this: they reaffirm that the things that unite us always will be stronger than those that divide us. We wish you a safe, healthy spring, filled with joy and delicious food!

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