April is a special month for us. It marks the second year since the path of The Dating GPS™: Guys, Pricks and Sweethearts first began. When we looked at the entire month of April on the calendar, we realized that this first full month of Spring turns out to be one holy month.
I reflected on Anita and on me and realized that we are global spirits. I looked at the wonderful people who have joined us on our journey: story contributors, male panelists, respected professionals and team members. Each of them individuals by design, but as a whole they represent the modern world – in geography, in culture, in spirit and in practice. While the two of us originally came from very distinct backgrounds: Anita being of Indian, Hindu descent and I a Soviet Jew; none of that mattered when it came down to friendship, surviving life’s pitfalls, celebrating triumphs, and most of all, personal heartache. From the time we met at the age of nine to where we are today we can see that still, at our core, we were and are quite the same.
As April commences, I’d like you to walk with me through a unique time we are in. In this year, and in this month there are special holidays that wonderfully parallel, bringing the world together.
Passover (April 6 – April 14) – If you’re seen the classic film The Ten Commandments or the more recent Disney cartoon The Prince of Egypt, then chances are, you know the tale. As I joke with others, the story of most Jewish holidays is the same: They tried to kills us, we survived, let’s eat. While it’s not PC to laugh at tragedy, truth is, the Jewish people have been able to survive the historical invasions and tragedies by retaining our sense of belief and our sense of humor.
During Passover, my people celebrate with lots of wine and matzah our survival from the Egyptians and we honor Moses for leading us out of slavery and into freedom. Along the way, we got a little lost in the desert (imagine if we had a GPS then!), but eventually found our way to a burning bush and a special mountain where G-d gave Moses the 10 Commandments (15, if you watch Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1). These commandments set the rules of the Jewish faith, as well as for Christianity, and defined us as a people.
Passover is my favorite of the Jewish holidays for the mere fact that it celebrates our soul’s desire to be free and the work we’re willing to do to get there. Freedom is never given. It is earned and, sometimes, it does take 40 years in a metaphorical desert, to find what’s meaningful, what’s true and what’s real. In Judaism, 40 is also the Age of Wisdom, and as I just turned that magical number (and Anita is about to) we both have acknowledged to each other how much growth we endeavored. We gave up old belief systems, walked away from jobs, men, people and situations which made us feel trapped and found our paths to the truth. Are our lives perfect? No, and we like them that way. Do we each now have our own code of values and, as a result, have we surrounded ourselves with supportive people who provide life-giving energies? Absolutely.
Another reason why I love Passover so much is because of Miriam. Moses would have never been born if it wasn’t for his and Aaron’s sister Miriam. While in Sunday school, we very rarely learn about the strong and significant women that made a Biblical impact. So when Rabbi Deutsch first introduced me to this very special woman, around the time I was 25, I was hooked on her power. The Egyptians issued an order, telling the Jews to stop conceiving. Miriam’s and Aaron’s parents were going to do just that. Instead, Miriam held ground and told her parents that by giving into the Egyptians, the Jews will guarantee our own extinction. So the parents listened to their daughter, conceived and birthed Moses, sent him out in the basket down the Nile, where the Pharaoh’s daughter then found him and convinced her father to raise Moses as royalty. And as the saying goes the rest is history.
But what’s even more amazing is that when, years later, under Moses’s leadership, the Jews left Egypt and crossed the parted Red Sea, the men were skeptical that they were going to be able to get out alive and to cross it safely. But not the women. The women expected success! They were so sure, they came prepared, bringing musical instruments to celebrate the liberation. And what instrument did Miriam bring? That’s right, the drum. As a drummer of ten years, this resonated with me like fireworks.
As we look forward to celebrating Passover, or as my people call it Pesach (Paskha, in Russian), I say “Thank You” to the Universe for helping me escape my own private Egypt and transcending me into the best freedom of all, the freedom of consciousness.
Lent / Good Friday / Easter (April 6 – April 8) – We’ve all seen Leonardo De Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper: Jesus sits in the middle of the table with his disciples around him. It’s called The Last Supper because it was his last meal before he was betrayed and crucified by the Romans. What some may not know is that The Last Supper was, in fact, a Passover Seder. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew calendar (as is the Buddhist, Hindu and pre-Islamic) is lunisolar, so the dates don’t always overlap so perfectly. Except for 2012. This year, Good Friday falls on the first night of Passover. Easter on the third. And while the Jews celebrate their freedom, Christians from all over the world, celebrate their freedom in the resurrection of Christ.
Jesus died, and was reborn. Whether Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox, millions all over the world recognize and mourn his sacrifice and then celebrate his return. In tradition, just as the Jews hide pieces of matzah (afikoman) for the children to find and earn a prize, the Christians (some, not all) have their tradition of the Easter egg hunt, where children look for hidden decorated eggs, representing the resurrection of Jesus.
There is a 40-day fasting that leads up to Easter that many Christians observe: Lent. According to History.com, Lent “represents the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before starting his ministry, a time in which Christians believe he survived various temptations by the devil.” (There’s that number 40, again!)
For those who believe that Christ is the Messiah, this time of year symbolizes tremendous hope and, even more so, spiritual growth. Out of darkness, there was light. The crossover had to happen, shedding what once was in the hope of what will be.
Eastern Orthodox Easter – (April 15) – Of course, there can’t be too much agreement on things – our world loves conflict way too much. The Orthodox (Byzantine church) celebrates its Easter on a different date, however this year, it begins the very day after Passover ends. And what do the Greeks call it? Pascha! Just like the Russian word for Passover.
In French Easter is called Paques. In Spanish, it’s Pascua. In Hebrew it’s Pesach. We’re not all that disconnected, even when borders divide.
Vishu (April 13) – As though all this Judea-Christian biblical re-birth history and celebration wasn’t enough, we have the Indian celebration of Vishu. Vishu is the first day of the zodiac new year and celebrates the vernal equinox, as the others, taking place usually on the second week of April in most parts of Kerala, India, this year it falls on April 14. Vishu comes from the Sanskrit “Vishua” meaning equal parts, as only on Vishu, the day and night each occupy equal amounts of 12 hours.
The Hindu festival is celebrated in all areas of India, through different names. Lord Vishnu, is the Preserver of the Universe within the Vaishnavite Hindus and is the focus during Vishu celebration.
The tradition of Vishukanni, is translated as “that which is seen first on Vishu.” It is understood that what a person sees when he or she first opens the eyes on Vishu morning is an indication of what can be expected in the year ahead. So on the astrologically first day of the year being Vishu, effort is made to assure one opens one’s eyes before an auspicious image—the Vishukanni. It is a beautiful arrangement of flowers, linen, vegetables, a holy book (Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, etc.) gold coins, a metal mirror and fruit, which is arranged by the women of the home the night before.
Tradition states that the eldest who arranged the Vishukanni wakes early and leads each family member with their eyes closed into the puja (or pooja) room, only opening the eyes upon the first auspicious sight of the Vishukanni at the start of the season.
Vishu is a time to feast and celebrate. Children are given gifts of money by their elders as a wish for prosperity, love and affection, people wear new clothes, and the feast offers equal amounts of bitter, sweet, salty and sour dishes, not unlike the the symbolic food served at Passover.
Buddha’s Birthday – (Japan, April 8) – Around 400 – 500 B.C., Prince Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha was born in what is most likely a region of India. Born into extreme wealth, and protected from the reality of anything outside his fortress, one day, the Prince set out on a journey. He wanted to know how the rest of the world lived. He hid his identity and lived in extreme poverty. Then, one day, while meditating under a tree, he came to the realization that living within either of life’s extreme’s – either the very rich or the very poor – wasn’t conducive. And that the Middle Path – a life of moderation – is the most healthy and life-giving way to be. Buddha, like Moses and Jesus, experienced transcendence.
Various Asian countries, including India, Nepal, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, China and others, celebrate Buddha’s birthday in the same way Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. The celebration in most of these countries falls on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar. In Japan, specifically, this means April 8.
In Japan, they call the celebration the Hana-Matsuri. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, “Hana-Matsuri refers to the memorial service performed at temples throughout Japan to celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 8th. It is formally called Kanbutsue. On this day, small buildings decorated with flowers are made at temples and a tanjobustu (baby Buddha figurine) is placed inside. This figurine is sprinkled by worshippers using a ladle with ama-cha, which is a beverage made by soaking tealeaves in hot water Some people take this ama-cha home and drink it as holy water.”
But wait, there’s more!
Earth Day (April 22) – Yes, it’s also time, half way into the month, to acknowledge the physical earth that is our planet. And while we’re not here to advocate any belief system – religious or otherwise, as these beliefs are all very personal – this is a perfect time to welcome in the warm weather by taking a partner, child, family member or friend, for a walk: in the park, by the river, on the beach, up a mountain and to see, smell, touch and feel the beauty that is our Earth. Like clockwork, our Earth recharges every season, and even though this winter has been milder than expected, we can still feel her rebirth as her flowers emerge from the ground, the trees stretch their leaves out toward the sun and the world is painted with colors which surround us in a gracious embrace upon returning from its own temporary exile.
Other April Holidays, celebrating renewal around the globe also include:
- Liberation Day Italy, April 25
- Songkran Festival, Thailand, April 13-15
- National Sovereignty and Children’s Festival, Turkey, April 23
- Senegal Independence Day, April 4
- Sierra Leone, Independence Day, April 27
- South Africa, Freedom Day April 27
- Syria Independence Day, April 17
- Tanzania Union Day, April 26
- Togo Independence Day, April 27
- Zimambwe Independence Day, April 18
As you can see, this is a very special time, for the entire planet. And this period calls for great change.It’s a time to be grateful for what was, embrace what is and prepare for what’s coming.
After reconnecting in 2008 via Facebook, both our lives were set to change in tremendous and positive ways. We shook our foundations and forced ourselves to re-evaluate our seasons before, shedding old skin, and emerging out towards a new season to harvest our own accomplishments and celebrate in the blessings in our journey.
When we look at the celebrations from counties all over the globe, we can see that regardless of financial struggle, hardships and setbacks, people of every kind find a way to celebrate life, begin each year with a new hope and press forward with a determination for success.
Two years ago in April, Anita and I started our mission to bring back balance and reality in relationships. We aimed to write a book that gives way to celebrate life, persevere in hard times and stay positively conscious to allow great experiences back into the hearts of our readers.
We came together, thirty years ago, because of one place. We owe our gratitude to a very important Village. A Village that embraced every ethnicity and cultural difference that came to its front door. This Village is Skokie, Illinois. Skokie was (and still is) home to us. It’s also home to thousands of great people who came and still arrive from lands far and near.
There is something very special about the land of the 60076 and as all of us around the world get ready to celebrate the April holidays that are most meaningful to our families’ traditions, chances are there’s a family in Skokie that will be celebrating yours.