Natural phenomena have always fascinated human beings. Curious and frightened by baffling, and chaotic events in nature, people explained them through fabricated stories about celestial objects and events around them. It is not surprising that this led to worship of, and obeisance to the sun, the sea, mountains, and natural occurrences like earthquakes, volcanoes, thunderstorms, and the awesome might of fire and water. The beginnings of religion lie in this reverence and fear.
The myth of death and rebirth, can be found in most civilizations; closely connected to nature’s apparent demise in winter, and revival in spring. In the ancient world, the coming of spring was often linked to mythical tales of a deity that perishes and is brought back to life; a parallel to the later Christian festival of Easter.
The ancient Egyptians believed in the god Osiris, who was killed by a rival. His body was torn to pieces, and scattered across the land. When the goddess Isis gathered the pieces and placed them in a grave, Osiris rose from the dead. He became the god of fertility who gave life to plants after the annual flooding of the Nile.
A lovely Greek myth tells the story of Persephone with whom Hades, the god of the underworld fell in love. He persuaded his brother, the ruling god Zeus, to allow him to steal her. While Persephone was distracted from her loving mother Demeter—the goddess of the harvest—Hades kidnapped the young woman and took her to the underworld. Demeter, distraught about the loss of her daughter relentlessly sought to bring her back, finally threatening to destroy the crop and harvest on earth. This ultimatum forced the gods to make a deal.
Each spring, Persephone leaves her husband Hades in the underworld, and returns to earth to join her mother for six months. She rises from the world of the dead, and brings new life with her each year. Her arrival is the harbinger of spring—joy and the rebirth of life on earth.
Spring is a time of rejoicing throughout the world, the renewal of vegetation is a sign of hope that one can expect the same in one’s own life. In India, the festival of Holi is one of the most colorful, where people cover themselves in a blanket of colored powder, and dance in the streets. Eggs are also quite symbolic in spring. The reason is obvious—they represent fertility, and new life about to erupt. An ancient Chinese tradition is to stand an egg on its broad end on the first day of spring. Accomplishing the feat is believed to bring good luck, and becomes “the egg balancing game.”
In Bosnia, the use of eggs in springtime, is also a fun event. But, unlike the Chinese, the aim is not to stand an egg on its end, it is to eat it communally! Cimburijada, the “Festival of Scrambles Eggs,” takes place in the town of Zenica, where residents gather at the banks of the Bosnian River. In the morning, hundreds of eggs are scrambled in a gargantuan, communal pot and everyone shares the meal.
The vernal—spring equinox—became the perfect guidepost for the beginning of new life each year. It is the time when the sun is directly over the Earth’s equator, making day and night equal in time. Many cultures celebrate this event in unique fashion. In Japanese culture, this special time when night and day are of equal length, the belief is that the Buddha appears, to help guide lost souls to the afterlife. To honor this, Japanese families visit the graves of ancestors and loved ones. They clean and decorate the tombstones, leave flowers, food, and pay respects. This is quite similar to the Mexican celebration of Day of the Dead—but in Japan, it takes place in spring.
In Mexico, there are two major places to celebrate the Spring Equinox. At the Teotihuacan Pyramid, or the Pyramid of the Sun, near Mexico City, thousands of people dressed in white, gather
at the base, raise their arms to the sky, and welcome the sunshine and energy of springtime. Some climb hundreds of steps to the top to be closer to the sun.
The other spot is at Chichen-Itza, where an incredible show—created by man’s engineering and the rays of the sun—takes place along the pyramid. Here too, thousands of people gather before the sun comes up. As the sun rises, its rays fall along the triangles on the side of the pyramid. Moving from top to bottom, it has the uncanny appearance of a slithering, giant serpent that starts from the heavens and enters the earth at the foot of the building. It is the supposed descent of the Aztec god Quetzacoatl, whom the Mayans adopted as Kukulkan, represented as a feathered serpent.
And in San Miguel, there is also a celebration during the Vernal Equinox. It takes place at the beautiful natural preserve, Charco del Ingenio which will be on Saturday, March 18 this year, starting at 5:30pm. What a wonderful way to celebrate the coming of spring—a musical concert where the music mingles with the sound of birds and crickets, in the open air!