I just looked outside yet again and saw that the weather is super-winter’ish. Lots of snow and bone-chilling cold with Ice pellets and freezing rain in the forecast. Yet, according to the calendar, next week will bring the 1st day of spring.
As much as I enjoy a lovely winter’s day, I do look forward to spring. So I decided to put the current weather out of my mind and think about spring instead.
Feeling curious about the seasons, I did some searching on-line and found many culture-specific rituals to signal the end of winter. Here are a few that especially caught my attention.
In Poland since the 16th century, handmade straw dolls (“Marzannas”) are thrown into rivers and streams. In India, the cultural festival of Holi combines several festive and colourful practices, culminating in a giant colour fight — the idea being that sharing fun can connect people and help them forgive past hardships. In Holland, street parades lasting as long as 12 hours celebrate the coming of spring with flower-covered floats. And here’s my favourite: In Switzerland, a snowman is burned at the stake. (I know that sounds brutal, but after all, it really is just snow.)
I’m not aware of any specific practices here in Canada, though in general we welcome spring with anticipation of warmer weather, colourful flowers, and a fresh start.
As a member of the Baha’i Faith, I’d like to also mention that the first of spring is the start of our new year. In anticipation and preparation for that, we fast for 19 days from sunup to sundown. The origin of this goes back to the Bab (the “Herald” of the Baha’i Faith) and then confirmed by Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Faith.
All of these communal practices are in their essence outward representations of something just as important happening inside ourselves. Our bodies, our minds — and perhaps even our spirits — are seeking renewal. How do we do this? How do we honour this?
Fasting is just one of many ways to do this, but it’s worth considering that the benefits for fasting are considered to be both spiritual and physical. The spiritual benefits are summarized in the Baha’i Writings in words such as these: “Fasting is the cause of awakening . . . the heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases.” And also: “This material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.”
Science tells us that fasting has physical benefits as well. Assuming a person is in good health and not traveling (otherwise s/he is exempted from this practice) a fast gives the body a chance to cleanse, restore, and re-energize.
Admittedly all of this is difficult to envision, especially since there is more to it all that we readily understand. To help us to learn and to connect our minds, bodies, and spirits to the natural healing that fasting can offer, Dr. Ward Hazen (Stratford Chiropractor and practitioner of natural healing techniques) will be the featured guest at The Unity Care on Friday March 15 at 7pm at the North Dumfries Community Complex. All are welcome, regardless of your specific interest in fasting. Like all Unity Cafes, the real purpose is to build friendship and share the joy of connecting with others. For more information please see http://northdumfries-bahais.org/
Submitted to Ayr News by Jaellayna Palmer, March 2019