Spring or Vernal Equinox is the time when the equator is in the direct path of the sun, when day and night are of equal length, and the North and South Poles receiving equal light, hence the name equinox. Technically or scientifically, it is a fraction of a second, but since most of us are not so disposed, Spring is now taken to signal a time of rebirth and new beginnings, an awakening of the earth, a time to plant, and so on.

In many cultures New Years Day was traditionally in late March. Most of the Roman republic and Medieval Europe celebrated New Years in March. It was not until 1582 and the institution of the Gregorian calendar that 1st January became the date to begin a New Year in the Western world. Many cultures had also marked these festivals and rites by a period of fasting before them. The Babylonians celebrated Akitu at the spring equinox. Germans have Ostara and the Saxons Eostre, their respective Goddess of Fertility, to represent the awakening of the earth. Christians have Lent before they celebrate Easter.

There were numerous festivals around the Spring Equinox, including the Festival of Trees, Alban Eilir, Passover, Rites of Eostre, Easter, Ostara, Rites of Spring, Holikadehan, Lent, Buddha’s birthday, St.Patrick’s Day, and April Fools Day. Some of these are still observed even to this day. Near the Mediterranean, for example, this is a time of sprouting of the summer’s crop; and further north, a time for seeding. Their rituals at the Spring Equinox are related primarily to the fertility of the crops and to the balance of the day and night times. Ancient Israelites observed Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread early in each new year while the Jewish people followed the Persian calendar and started each year with the Spring Equinox around 21st March.

Scientific pantheism is the belief that the universe and nature are divine. It fuses religion and science, and concern for humans with concern for nature. Albert Einstein is the cosmic pantheist. The Pantheist Calendar lists amongst other dates, Darwin’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, Galileo, Einstein’s birthday, World Environment Day, and the Spring Equinox. It specifies the exact time of the Spring Equinox to the minute. For 2002, it falls on 20th March at 19:16 Greenwich Mean Time.

It is interesting but not incomprehensible that the Pantheist Calendar has also listed on it International Women’s Day, which was yesterday. It is actually most fitting that Women’s Day should fall in Spring which signals fertility and so on. I have a friend from the Mainland who has a clean joke about Women’s Day. He said that International Women’s Day in the Mainland actually started in conjunction with Labour Day to recognize the contribution of women to the labour force. It was therefore suggested that the word “Labour” should go into the name of the festival. The problem is where to fit the word “Labour” between “International Women’s Day.” There are different connotations and interpretations in each combination, and the results are not always acceptable to all concerned. So, in the end, they gave up. Why don’t you try it yourself with your spouse. For best results, use Chinese.

Another significant festival in Spring, not on the Pantheist Calendar though, is Burns Night, in memory of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet and Bard of all Humanity. Burns was born in January 1759 and lived in the same period as William Blake and George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron. All three are celebrated poets, well known and thoroughly studied by my English Literature friends in those days. Burns was born son of a tenant farmer, but became a poet and exercise-officer, and was better known for his comradelier and womanizing episodes. One wonders whether it was his flair in literature or other activities that had earned him such acclaims.

Talking of which I stumbled into a website constructed by women on women and for women. It gives a list of the 12 sexiest men; beginning with remarks such as, “Move over, Brad Pitt.” I recognize Russell Crowe, of LA Confidential and Gladiator fame, and more recently, A Beautiful Mind, and Jet Li the martial arts champion. I do not recognize any name of Rotarians on the list! Crowe of course has been making news these days for being too “passionate” in making his point when the producer of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts edited out his recitation from the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh as part of his acceptance speech for the Best Actor Award in A Beautiful Mind.

Before I leave you, I cannot resist sharing with you a joke on women, and it is clean. Here it goes –

“One day, three men were out having a relaxing day fishing, when suddenly they caught a mermaid. They hauled the mermaid up in a net, whereupon she promised that if the three men set her free, she would grant each of them a wish in return. The first man did not believe it, so he said, “Alright, if you can really grant wishes, then double my IQ.” The mermaid said, “Done,” and suddenly, the first man began to flawlessly recite Shakespeare and analyze it with extreme insight.

The second man was so amazed; he looked at the mermaid and said, “Triple my IQ.” The mermaid said, “Done,” and the second man started to recite solutions to mathematical problems that had been stumping all of the scientists in various fields from physics to chemistry and so on.

The third man was so enthralled with the changes in his friends; he said to the mermaid, “Quintuple my IQ.” The mermaid looked at him and said, “You know, I normally don’t try to change people’s minds when they make a wish, but I really wish you’d reconsider.” The man responded, “Nope, I want you to increase my IQ times five, and if you don’t do it, I won’t set you free.” “Please,” said the mermaid “You don’t know what you’re asking, it’ll change your entire view on the universe. Won’t you ask for something else, a million dollars, anything?” But no matter what the mermaid said, the third man insisted on having his IQ increased by five times its usual power. So the mermaid finally relented and said, “Done.” The third man became a woman.”

I hope you had a happy International Women’s Day and I would talk to you again later.

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