It’s the first day of spring! Here’s how cultural groups across Michigan are celebrating. | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

It’s the first day of spring! Here’s how cultural groups across Michigan are celebrating.

Mar 20, 2019

It's finally here! Wednesday's vernal equinox marks the first day of spring. Celebrations marking the transition from the dark days of winter into a gentler season are part of cultural traditions across the world. 

Mary Stewart Adams, a star lore historian and the founder of Michigan's only international dark sky park, joined Stateside to tell us more about why the equinox has received so much attention throughout time.

"If you look through the lens of history," Adams said, "you see that human beings are always trying to live in harmony with their environment. It might not look that way in the 21st century, but the further back you go in history, you see that all of the civic organizations, all of the festivals, all of the ways that humans practice their lifestyle was rooted in trying to understand, what has that overhead [in space] got to do with me down on Earth?"

It might be easy to downplay the significance of the equinox in our modern lives, but for Adams, it's not about ancient traditions, but rather "staying in rhythm with the planet in its environment."

In the Pagan tradition, the equinox is celebrated in the ritual of Ostara. According to Stanley Nunn, the priest at Pagan Pathways Temple in Madison Heights, the equinox celebration is about recognizing the cyclical nature of the seasons and the planet.

"It is a recognition of new opportunities, the rebirth of all things in the Earth and in our lives. So this time is very important for us individually and as a group to recognize the opportunity that we can start over," Nunn said.

In Persian culture, the start of spring is marked by the holiday Nowruz, or Persian New Year. There are a variety of traditions that go with the holiday, including gift giving and poetry readings with the family, but most prominent are the haft-sin tables that houses put together. Zoreh Raein, who runs a Persian school in Troy, says each object laid out on the haft-sin table is symbolic. 

"The seven 's' are for the things we put on the table, and each item has a symbol. Like 'apple' is started with 's' in Farsi, [and] it is the symbol of health and good diet. Then we have things that we make all started with 's;' garlic, symbol of [being] well and healthy; goldfish, symbol of life; and we always dye eggs, which are the symbol of fertility," Raein explained.

In other cultures, the celebration of spring focuses on the joy and colors of new growth. In Hinduism, this happens during the festival of colors called Holi. Tom Patel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Hindu Temple in Canton, said that the holiday began with the farmers in India celebrating the return of color in their crops. Now, the day is celebrated by getting covered in colorful powders.

While Patel shared happy memories of past Holi celebrations, he said his favorite part is passing on the tradition.

"I like to coordinate the youngsters to give them the same feeling I had in those days, so that is what I like most, but still I love to be part of it," Patel said.

(Subscribe to Stateside on iTunesGoogle Play, or with this RSS link)