Springtime snowfall belies the warm season ahead [Commentary]


The snow on the day after the Christian observance of Palm Sunday and the first day of the Jewish observance of Passover was certainly an unusual occurrence in Harford County.

The most vital of holidays for both faiths are very closely associated with springtime and the re-emergence of life. In Passover, the coming of age of the Jewish nation is celebrated as it signifies the Hebrew nation's departure from the despair of slavery in Egypt to freedom in a Promised Land, a territory flowing with milk and honey. The defining moment of Christianity is closely associated with Passover, as Jesus of Nazareth was an observant Jew whose crucifixion and death took place after the Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder. Easter is, of course, the celebration of the rebirth of the Resurrection.

A late season snow seems more than a little out of place in the observance of these inherently optimistic holidays. Still, snow in March is something that happens with a fair degree of regularity in these parts, and the signature holidays of two of the world's great faiths are movable feasts that ride an edge that sometimes puts them squarely on the cold side of springtime.

This year's March 30 Easter is relatively early; the earliest Easter can fall is in the March 21-22 time frame because of the holiday's tie to the first full moon after the spring equinox (the U.S. Naval Observatory website has a fascinating, or mind-numbing, explanation of exactly how the date for Easter is derived, for those who want to know more).

Similarly, ancient celebrations of Passover observances were based on the sighting of a young crescent moon. Curiously enough, the Islamic holy month Ramadan begins even now with the first sighting of a young crescent moon, though that lunar cycle isn't expected this year until early July.

One thing that is striking from all this is how much three of the world's great faiths have in common when it comes to important observances. Though the works of human hands can be changed, the cycles of the moon, sun and stars are as constant as anything in tens of thousands of years of human history and prehistory. From that perspective, it's best to tie important observances to these cycles of the natural world rather than leave them to the flaws of less permanent things like clay tablets, paper records or electronic notations on a magnetic disk.

Relying on the changing cycles of the moon may result in timing that makes it possible to have snow during Passover or Holy Week, but the moon is likely to be around long after modern records are lost or forgotten.

Plus, snowfall during a season that signifies the rebirth of springtime serves as a reminder of why we welcome the warmth of rebirth and the spring season, which can make such celebrations seem just a bit sweeter.

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