Spring is a time of rebirth, so it’s no surprise we celebrate. These holidays, whether true “holy days” or secular commemorations, tend to be marked by feasting and gifting. Persians go all-out for Nowruz, literally “new day,” with intense spring cleanings, visits to friends and family, and a feast. Japanese picnic in droves under the cherry blossoms—often in cemetaries—for hana matsuri. Christians this week mark the rebirth of Jesus Christ on Easter. Last week Jews gathered for Passover.
Many of these springtime holidays have a dark side—or at the very least a dark undercurrent. Behind the bunny rabbits (chocolate and furry), fluffy yellow chicks and prettily colored eggs lies a cruel and unjust death. Passover, too, marks a rebirth for the Jewish people; this most deadly plague, which “passed over” Jewish homes, finally persuaded Pharaoh to free the Israelites to pursue their destiny. (Let’s be thankful that human sacrifice has gone out of style with both God and man.) Even those Japanese picnics are traditionally a time to contemplate the ephemeral nature of life as you watch spring’s first light pink petals fall like snowflakes.
Truth is, springtime celebrations mark not life but its cycle, which must of necessity include death. If we were immortal, we wouldn’t take the same joy in being (not to mention the planet would be really crowded). The same dying and decay that make us sad are what make life joyful and precious.