Spring Festival

A Humanist Year’s major festivals occur four times throughout the year, at the solstices and the equinoxes. These are times for celebration. They are times when we laugh and sing and come together with others to revel in the turning of the year. They are also often transitional times between the liturgical seasons, times when we separate from the previous season’s concerns and refocus our attention on new topics and new ways of thinking and interacting with the world.

The Vernal Equinox, on March 20th, marks a beginning. It is not an entirely new beginning, but rather a culmination of what we began at the New Year and the time when those efforts begin to bear fruit. It is a time when we look back on the preparatory work of the past season, celebrate the life we have built for ourselves and for others, and renew our commitment to the project of living well. At the Winter Solstice, as light began to come back to the world and the days began to lengthen, we celebrated our hope for the future. Now, at this time when the day and night are of equal length, when daylight finally overtakes the darkness, we celebrate the fulfillment of that hope and look forward to the long, halcyon days ahead. There is still much to do in those coming days. We will maintain and build upon our previous work, we will face new challenges and rise to new heights. And here, at poised on the edge of spring, we look forward to that good work.

● Indulge in the symbols of the season – those images and objects which remind us that the promise of spring is the promise of renewal. Decorate your home with spring flowers and other symbols like the green man. Eat eggs (regular, chocolate, whatever), which are an age old symbol of new life, or have an egg hunt with your children. Take your kids to a pet store or zoo to see all the baby animals (especially the bunnies). Visit a farm where they make maple sugar. Maple sap, which has been locked up in the trees throughout the frozen winter months, has just begun to flow. In surrounding yourself with these symbols, you celebrate the vitality that is metaphorically and a little literally in the (warm, fresh) air at this time of year. Also, check out Seanan’s sermon on the Chinese New Year, symbolic actions, and the effectiveness of living as if good things are coming to you.

● Along those same lines, get out and enjoy the springtime. Walk in the warm(ish) weather, observe the green shoots and buds, smell the fresh rain (or melting snow). Grill outside, even if it’s a little cold, to anticipate and celebrate the coming summer months.

● Use this time to reflect on your New Year’s resolutions. Have you been keeping up with them? Did you entirely forget what they were? Take this opportunity to recommit to those goals (or modify them, if necessary). How might what we learned and experienced in the Season on Cultivation help you achieve them?

● Clean your house. Throughout history and across cultures, people have used spring cleaning as a way to reinvigorate their lives after being shut up for the winter months. Throw open your windows, wash your sheets, beat your rugs, and feel renewed and ready to engage with the months ahead.

● If you like ballet, watch these two great spring-themed pieces (or just listen to the music). The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky is a ballet which depicts an imagined ancient Russian sacrifice. It is a powerful piece, and an important one in the history of music. It also caused a riot in the theater when it was first performed.

In contrast, Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring is a much easier-access piece, though no less moving. It is a beautiful depiction of pioneer life.

● For those who knit, there is a vernal equinox shawl! How cool is that?!

● In the larger narrative of A Humanist Year, which follows the archetypal arc of human life, the Spring Festival is a time to celebrate youth, and especially the transition from youth to mature adulthood. In the Season on Origins, that narrative focused on the gestational period of our life, the Winter Festival marked our birth, and the Season on Cultivation was devoted to our early growth. The Spring Festival thus comes in between that growth and the mature concerns of the adult Season on Flourishing. Take some time during this week to honor the young adults in your community or in your personal life. Set aside special time to spend with them. Enjoy their company and be a mentor to them as they make this momentous transition.

● As much as this Festival is about young people, it is also about people of any age who are new to the narrative of A Humanist Year. If you have enjoyed these blog posts or find the arc of the year interesting or helpful, please tell someone else about it. Invite new members into this community.

Have other ideas for how to celebrate the Spring Festival? Comment below!

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