As the cold winter ebbs, the sun glorifies the blue skies. In Switzerland, we rejoice the season’s change. And in India, we welcome Spring in ways more than one.
March and April – they are the months of Holi, Gudipadwa, Ugadi or Basant Panchami, Bohag Bihu or Easter – or the many other big and small festivities celebrated by Indians all across the globe. These festivals revolve around the concepts of welcoming Spring, or the first harvest’; or bidding adieu to the cold winter in certain areas up North. The consistent factor underlying each remains the mood to rejoice and mark new beginnings with fanfare.
I send best wishes and greetings to you on behalf of Namaste Switzerland, highlighting just a few festivities in order of their dates – for the sake of nostalgia.
The Parsi New Year falls on March 21 this year. It is one of the main festivals of the Parsi community. Navroze literally means a ‘new day’. Thanksgiving meets and greets are held on this day as the Parsi families decorate their homes with flowers, garlands and ‘rangolis’. The intent is to show gratitude towards deity and mark a quiet celebration with lavish and traditional Parsi cuisine.
‘Gulal’, water balloons, ‘mithhai’ and joy – Holi marks the beginning of spring, good harvests and victory of good over evil. This year, the festival falls on March 20-21. Take this chance to recreate the atmosphere with friends and family. Make a bonfire for ‘Holika Dahan’ and stay warm.
Check out the various stories on Youtube or on any of the internet sites and pick out a nice story to explain the concept to your children and Swiss friends. Enjoy the festival of colour with traditional Indian music and Bollywood beats, a touch of colour and lots of traditional foods ranging from ‘pakodas’ to ‘gujjias’. No colours? Never mind! Celebrate it with flowers as the ‘Phoolon ki Holi’ like in Mathura and Vrindavan – the festival is all about love, beauty and forgiveness.
Ugadi is mainly celebrated by the Telugu and Kannada communities. It is the first day of the lunar new year, based on famed Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya’s astronomical calculations of the position of the moon dating back to 12th century.
This year it falls on April 6 – the first new moon after the Spring Equinox and signifies a change in the seasons. In fact, the Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit words yuga (age) and ādi (starting); implying ‘the beginning of a new age’.
Legend has it that Lord Brahma created the universe on Ugadi. Ugadi also heralds the arrival of warmer weather and is looked upon as a time to begin afresh, leaving behind the errors of the past behind, make predictions and a good time to start new ventures. A traditional sweet-sour paste called ‘Bevu Bella’ is made using jaggery, neem buds, tamarind juice and raw mango depicting life as a mix of experiences.
It is essentially the same as Ugadi and is celebrated on April 6 this year. The festival marks the traditional new year for Marathi community. ‘Rangoli’ designs adorn the floor of the houses, a special ‘Guddhi’ flag is created and garlanded with flowers, mango and neem leaves, topped with upturned silver or copper vessel. The festival sees many street processions, dancing and festive foods in Maharashtra. It’s another reason to dress up traditionally and celebrate with friends and family in your homes away from home.
Baisakhi or Vaisakhi is celebrated on April 14 this year, to welcome the harvest season. In some villages, there are extravagant fairs showcasing the traditional wares and foods of the area. People dress up in colourful traditional outfits and do the ‘Bhangra’ and ‘Giddah’. The ‘dhol’ is an important instrument that belts out the beats that the traditional dances require.
It signifies the beginning of new spring year, and some people take a dip in the holy rivers traversing the territory of Punjab. The festival has immense importance for the Sikh community, as it is also the birthday of their tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Easter signifies the resurrection of Christ on the third day of his burial post-crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary (c.30 AD). It is preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer and the ‘Holi Week’, which comprises the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.
Easter is also linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism. Easter customs vary across the world. But what seems to add fun for adults and kids is the Easter egg hunt, the Easter Bunny and the decorations. Get everyone in the family involved with the decorations, hiding the Easter eggs and cooking up a meal for April 21 this year!
Bohag Bihu is one of the most significant and important festivals in the Bihu calendar of Assam that is also celebrated to mark the commencement of harvesting season and is the first day of the Assamese New Year. Celebrated this year from April 15-21, it is also known as Rongali Bihu – ‘Rongali’ that stems from the word ‘Rong’, means happiness and celebration. People wear traditional outfits made from ‘muga’ silk, sing folksongs and do the traditional dance.
So get set this Spring to celebrate at least one if not all of the festivals with your friends and families in Switzerland!
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