The Chinese celebrate Holi

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Nouruz - Passover - Easter Spring festivals from three cultures

April 17, 2019 by Ulrike Zöller

Not only the Christian Easter or the Jewish Passover, also the colorful Holifest in India, the cherry blossom festival in Japan or the Chinese New Year festival take place in spring. How do the festivals differ? What music does it accompany? And what are the similarities?

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In Christianity, as in Judaism, one of the main festivals is in spring, on the Sunday after the first full moon in spring. The Jewish Passover is a reminder that God led the Jewish people out of Egyptian slavery. The Christian Easter comes originally from the Passover festival and celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nouruz is the name of the old Persian and Kurdish New Year and Spring Festival, which marks the beginning of a New Year in Iran, Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Caucasus. It is a festival of creation, peace and light. In the Roman Empire, too, the New Year and Spring Festival coincided. According to the old Roman calendar, the year began in March.

Spring and New Year Festival: Nourouz

Nourouz - or Newroz - has its roots in the Zoroastrian culture of Persia, in which fire played a major role. Dances around and leaps over the fire are part of the Nourouz celebrations in many countries. As with the Jewish Passover festival, legend has it that the spring festival was based on the liberation of the Kurdish people by the blacksmith Kawa. After killing the tyrant Zahak, Kawa lit a fire on a mountain top as a sign of victory. Since then, the Newroz fire has been part of the Kurdish tradition.

The importance of light

Fire and light are also part of the Christian Easter celebrations and the Easter liturgy. In the "Exsultet", the great Easter praise, the meaning of the Passover night for Christianity is sung: starting from the Exodus from Egypt, reference is made to the resurrection of Christ.

In Ireland, in addition to Easter, another festival associated with light is celebrated: Brigidsday, the day of St. Brigitte, which in the syncretic sense corresponds to the Celtic goddess Brog, marks the beginning of spring in Ireland. And so there is also a fire custom at St. Brigid, which is supposed to remind of the ritual fire around which was sung in pre-Christian times.

And in Judaism, too, lighting the candles is an essential part: On the evening before the Sabbath, the candles are lit just before dark.

Internal and external cleaning

How do people prepare for their celebrations? They cleanse themselves and their surroundings from the outside and inside: The inner cleansing is accomplished by fasting for several weeks. Depending on the religion, the believers forego food, cigarettes, alcohol and dance. In Eritrea and Ethiopia, Christians are strictly vegan. Music to praise God is allowed.

On the one hand, external cleaning can be something very mundane like spring cleaning. In Jewish culture, however, due to its strong liturgical background, cleaning is an important part of the festivities: In preparation for the Passover festival, the house, cars and offices are thoroughly cleaned - but especially the kitchen. The background: The area should be completely cleansed of Chametz. Chametz is the leavened, fermented grain. In other words, all conventional types of pastries, pasta, pizza or even beer. Because at Passover the exodus from Egypt is remembered and how quickly everything had to go. So fast that the dough for the bread couldn't ferment and you had to eat unleavened bread. Mazza - unleavened bread - is therefore part of the Passover meal. On the eve of the Passover festival, the Seder evening, the so-called Haggadah is read and sung.

Broadcast:"Music of the World" on April 20, 2019 at 11:05 pm on BR-KLASSIK