THE VERNAL EQUINOX - THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING
Connie Kaldor has written a wonderful song about this feeling, called "Spring in the Prairies". One line goes, "Spring in the Prairies comes like a surprise. One day there's snow on the ground, the next there's sun in your eyes."
In ancient times, people thought they could "wake up the plants and flowers" by jumping or dancing on the earth. Even today jumping and bouncing games are popular in the spring -- games such as skipping, hop-scotch and ball-bouncing.
In Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia one of the best things about early spring is "sugaring-off". These parts of Canada have forests of maple trees. Native people first discovered the sweet sap of the maple was delicious to eat. During the time of the "sugar moon" or "maple moon' when the sap started to run, they would camp out in the "sugar bush" to gather all the sap they could. This was done by drilling holes in the trees and attaching little taps and pails to catch the dripping sap. The collected sap was put into large pots over fires so it could be boiled down and the sweetness concentrated into syrup. The Ojibwa, Iroquois and other natives gave thanks to the Creator for this wonderful spring harvest.
The maple syrup gathering is now an important industry in eastern Canada. Canadian maple syrup is delicious and popular all over the world. When all the sap is collected and the season is over, there are big sugaring-off parties. In the Eastern Townships of Quebec this is called Festival de la Cabane a Sucre which refers to the "sugar shack" where the farmers boil down the sap. If you are invited to a sugaring-off party expect to eat ham, omelettes, potatoes and lots of pancakes, gobbled down with loads of maple syrup! Something that kids love to do is to dribble some syrup on the clean snow, wind it around a stick and eat it like candy. Yummy!
Zoroastrians mark this day as Now Ruz.
That's pronounced noh-ROOZ. It means "new day" and this year it is the
first day of the Zoroastrian year 1377.
Zoroastrianism was founded around the 7th century B.C.in Iran, which used to be called Persia. It had an influence on Judaism because both religions came from the same geographical area. Through Judaism it also infulenced Christianity.
The religion believes there is one God and the forces of good can win over the forces of evil. Now Ruz symbolizes the renewal of the world after winter. It also marks the creation of fire, the symbol of righteousness and the day the prophet Zoroaster (sometimes he is called Zarathustra -- pronounced ZA-ra-THOOS-tra) -- became enlightened. Fire plays an important part in the rituals of Zoroastrianism. To prepare for the festival of Now Ruz, people jump over fires. This is meant to strengthen the power of the sun. Families gather together to wait for the exact moment of the spring equinox. The table is set with seven objects. There are sprouting seeds (to symbolize food), coins (for riches), sugar (for sweetness), vinegar (for preservation), apples (for happiness), flowers (to show the abundance of the earth) and spices (for the spice in our lives). There is a candle for each member of the family, a decorated egg symbolizing life and the world, and an orange floating in a bowl of water. Everyone hopes to see the orange tremble in the water just as the New Year comes in. The Holy Book is also on the table. Everyone enjoys a piece of candy while someone reads from the Holy Book. then people say "Sad sal beh as in salha", which means "May you live a thousand years." At this point, parents give gifts to their children. However, they say the gifts come from Father or Uncle Now Ruz.
People of the Baha'i faith mark the New Year, Naw Ruz on this day, too. The Baha'i faith was also founded in the Middle East where spring comes early. The day the world begins to warm up again and the plants begin to bloom is marked as the New Year to symbolize spiritual renewal and growth. There is no work on this day and a huge feast. Many of the same symbols as the Zoroastrians are used.
©Copyright 1998, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation