Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

The beauty of living in Canada is that one can experience the festivals and celebrations of the many ethnic peoples who comprise the mosaic that is Canada. Two major celebrations beginning this weekend are Vaisakhi and Easter, and apart from some particular religious aspects, they share the basic celebration of the renewal of life (crops) and the start of the new season (life renewed).

According to the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India (SCFI) the official day this year is Friday April 14, reckoned by the Nanakshahi, Indian solar calendar.

Vaisakhi, for those not fully aware, marks the birth of the Sikh faith, the creation of the Khalsa and celebrates the start of Punjabi harvest. It’s one of the most significant dates in the year for Sikhs. It’s also an ancient festival of the Hindu culture marking the Solar New year and the spring harvest.

Vaisakhi is a time of parades, floats, dancing, singing and eating! As is custom, food and drink is provided by many in the community to those attending the parade. And nowhere is that more spectacularly arrayed than at the Vancouver and Surrey parades. Vancouver’s parade is on Saturday April 15, at the Ross Street Temple in South Vancouver (between 11 am and 5 pm).  Attendance is around 50,000.  The following Saturday, April 22, Surrey’s Parade launches at 9:00 at the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, in Newton.

This is a must attend event. Last year a record 300,000 people attended in Surrey. Always an invitation is extended to everyone of all cultures across the Lower Mainland.

Easter is also a celebration of faith, for the Christians, and also signifies the renewal of life as according to the prophecies, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead three days after his execution by the gruesome Roman practice of crucifixion (being nailed to a cross). Over the two millennia since, Christianity has become one of the world’s great religions.
Easter occurs on the first Friday (Good Friday) and Easter Sunday, following the full moon after the March equinox.

Many historians, even Bible Scholars, believe that Easter was roots in some pagan festivals and myths. New Unger’s Bible Dictionary says: “The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honour sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo–Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.”

Earlier still, Dr. Tony Nugent, teacher of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University, and Presbyterian minister suggests the Easter story comes from the Sumerian legend of Damuzi (Tammuz) and his wife Inanna (Ishtar), an epic myth called “The Descent of Inanna” found inscribed on cuneiform clay tablets dating back to 2100 BC.

When Tammuz dies, Ishtar is grief–stricken and follows him to the underworld. In the underworld, she enters through seven gates, and her worldly attire is removed. “Naked and bowed low” she is judged, killed, and then hung on display. In her absence, the earth loses its fertility, crops cease to grow and animals stop reproducing. Unless something is done, all life on earth will end.

After Inanna has been missing for three days her assistant goes to other gods for help. Finally one of them Enki, creates two creatures who carry the plant of life and water of life down to the Underworld, sprinkling them on Inanna and Damuzi, resurrecting them, and giving them the power to return to the earth as the light of the sun for six months. After the six months are up, Tammuz returns to the underworld of the dead, remaining there for another six months, and Ishtar pursues him, prompting the water god to rescue them both. Thus were the cycles of winter death and spring life go one infinitely.

Now, where do Easter Bunnies and Easter Eggs come into the picture? In Germanic mythology, the Goddess Ostara healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare retaining avian (bird) aspects, where upon the hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts. The chocolate part came much later.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “The egg as a symbol of fertility and renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who coloured and ate eggs during their spring festival.” In ancient Egypt, an egg symbolized the sun, while for the Babylonians, the egg represents the hatching of the Venus Ishtar, who fell from heaven to the Euphrates.

Now you know! Happy Vaisakhi, Happy Easter!