Reimagining Nowruz and Easter in the Post COVID-19 World

Easter and Nowruz have one common message for humanity, renewal. The suffering that is inherent in Easter (before the resurrection) is absent in Nowruz, for Easter is intended for the faithful and Nowruz gradually grew out of a religious setting and became a festival for all. Nowruz was a festival that Zoroaster used to celebrate and it survived his religious reforms. He was not against the festival per-se but it was the gods that Zoroaster had problems with and how they obliged the people to please them.

Nowruz draws us to the renewal of the physical world and Easter to the mysterious working of the spiritual realms. Perhaps it’s not possible to have the spiritual separated from the physical, not for the mortal humans, at least.

Nowruz is about starting again, fresh, as it is celebrated at the beginning of spring when the warmth of the sun gradually gathers strength. The events and miracle of Easter also took place in spring. Both Easter and Nowruz use eggs symbolically in their rituals. For many Christians, the egg signifies the empty tomb out of which Jesus was resurrected and came back to life. In Nowruz,  eggs, often painted, signify life and fertility.

Nowruz and Easter intend to motivate and equip humanity on their journey.

Now-ruz means new day, “now” in English new, and ruz meaning day.  The name “Easter” according to Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century goes back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. Easter is also linked to the festival of Jewish Passover, which was originally a spring festival. In Persian Iranians refer to Easter as عید پاک which is more likely related to the Aramaic word Paschal festival which grew out of an earlier agricultural festival in spring and became the festival of Passover.

Nowruz and Easter intend to motivate and equip humanity on their journey. As many of us grapple with various hardships in life, for example with broken relationships, illness, death, separation from loved ones and other trials and tribulations Nowruz and Easter help us to endure and keep going. Sometimes we forget that the sun will rise again and flowers will bloom in the coming spring and that the spring harvest has kept us alive and warm during the cold winter period. Nowruz reminds us at every spring we should be thankful, for the natural world will provide for our nourishments.

Easter is about dying to our lower nature and a shield against the Ahrimanic forces that emotionally and spiritually grind us to a halt. It teaches us that death is not the end but only a new beginning. The gruesome suffering of Jesus is not to make us feel frightened but it is a realistic picture of life. However, the hope it offers can strengthen us to commit to our life journey even if the destination is obscure or unknown. In step 2 of  the AA meeting, participants recite at the beginning and at the end of each gathering, “We came to be aware that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This is not to say that after repeating the line people are automatically made whole. It is an admission that a greater power is at work, and Easter is about that. It’s about changing our perspective that has been shaped through our limited or negative experiences in life and the wrong choices we made along the way. It’s about not giving up when weakness overwhelms us.

Perhaps we should all ponder over the deeper meaning of Nowruz and Easter during this period of isolation.

Nowruz grew out of the religious instinct of the Indo-European people yet its emphasis on nature and renewal makes it an inclusive festival to be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone. Nowruz reminds us to have faith in the goodness of Mazda’s creation. It encourages us to look after it and try to see beyond the famines, flood and fires or COVID-19.

Zoroastrianism forbade people from polluting the good creation. Pollution of the waters and air was an act of desecration and ultimately a form of ingratitude toward the good gifts of Yazadan. Imagine a world when we all cared about the wellbeing of creation! Nowruz is a reminder that we live and depend on the natural world to sustain us, from generation to generation. This immense responsibility of looking after the creation falls on the shoulders of each person for as long as we draw our sustenance from the earth.

In the festival of Nowruz visiting and greeting family and friends and people is also very much part of its ritual. The harmony that Nowruz promotes with nature is also present in the peace we need to keep with people around us. A similar ritual is also practiced among Orthodox Christians during Easter and is referred to as Paschal greeting when people greet or kiss one another and utter the victory of Christ over death.

Perhaps we should all ponder over the deeper meaning of Nowruz and Easter during this period of isolation. And think about ways to make their meanings more real for ourselves which is to connect us deeper to the physical and spiritual world, to respect others, protect and preserve the natural world. Easter perhaps does not need to be appreciated by Christians only,  as Nowruz is not exclusively for the adherents of Zoroastrians.

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