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The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

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Spring celebrations and traditions

  South celebrates many spring festivals and traditions. One theme common among the different cultural traditions is a new beginning bringing positive change. Here are six traditions we celebrate in our community.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY MS. SAMIRAH AKHLAQ

Nowruz

     Nowruz (now-rooz) is the Persian New Year mainly celebrated in Central Asia–Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan. Nowruz, meaning “new day” in Persian, is commemorated around late March, and this year fell on March 19.

     Originating from Iran, the festival’s ideals follow a four-thousand-year old religion known as Zoroastrianism, established by the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. Zoroaster believed that good and evil are in a constant battle that will eventually end with the destruction of evil. 

   “What’s interesting about Nowruz is that everything is new. It teaches us to not give up and to look forward to new things and beginnings,” said art teacher Ms. Samirah Akhlaq.

     Nowruz customs include house cleaning, shopping, and visiting relatives. Ms. Akhlaq said that Nowruz brings the Persian community together in a special way. “We’ll have a flower and color for every year. I think that it’s more of a community cultural feeling, like, everybody’s gonna be wearing purple, so it’s a lot about unity.” 

     A tradition in Nowruz is haft-seen, which is a display of seven items symbolizing the seven holy immortals in Zoroastrianism. Each of the items start with the Persian letter “s” from the Persian alphabet.

     Some foods cooked on Nowruz are samanu (a sweet, sprouted wheatpaste), sabzi polo (Persian herb rice), and nan-e nokhodchi (Persian pistachio chickpea cookies). 

     Nowruz celebrations provide hope and something to look forward to. “No matter how the past has been, there is always an opportunity for us to reset and restart,” Ms. Akhlaq said.

 

PHOTO PROVIDED BY MS. YAMINI VARMA-KUMAR

Holi

     Holi, which took place on March 25, is a North Indian festival known as the “festival of colors.” It celebrates the arrival of spring in India and the victory of good over evil. 

     Chemistry teacher Ms. Yamini Varma-Kumar, who goes by Ms. Varma, explained the legend behind the concept of good vs. evil. “The myth goes that King Hiranyakashyap had a blessing that he could not be killed by man or animal, at night or day, inside or outside the house and so on.  He became evil believing that he could not be destroyed and planned to kill his own son, Prahlad.”

     Prahlad worshiped Lord Vishnu, a primary Hindu God. Lord Vishnu was Hiranyakashyap’s enemy. To protect Prahlad, Vishnu took the avatar of Narasimha, a half lion-half man. At dusk, he appeared at the entrance of the king’s home and killed him.

     Another reason Holi is celebrated is to commemorate the spring harvest. “Holi is celebrated in early to mid-March to celebrate the abundance of the harvest season, fertility of the land that gives such abundance and it is also a time when in agrarian societies, people have ‘time’ to celebrate as harvesting is complete—so it’s a time of rest, celebration, sharing, and connecting with people,“ said Chemistry teacher Ms. Varma-Kumar. 

     On Holi, people throw colors at each other, representing love and affection. Another way people celebrate is by eating various sweets on this day, such as gujiya (a sweet pastry stuffed with mixed dry fruits), puran poli (Indian sweet flatbread), and lassi (a sweet yogurt drink). 

     Ms. Varma said, “It’s a time of letting go of the past, letting go of things that have sort of become stagnant and starting over.” 

 

Songkran Water Festival

     The Songkran Water Festival celebrates the Thai New Year in a three-day celebration from April 13 to 15. Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word sankranti, meaning transformation or change. This tradition originated from a Thai folktale.

     According to a Buddhist folktale, the king of gods, Indra, was disappointed by the high level of disrespect and corruption in the mortal world, so he decided to punish them. Indra created an extreme drought, destroying many crops and making water scarce. 

     Mortals prayed to Mother Earth, who then gave them a piece of godly, fertile land, a song to make rain come, and pots with colored powders for them to apply to cool down.

     To honor Mother Earth’s kindness, a cycle of kindness was started. Thais often wash their elders’ feet, give them new clothes, and serve them delicacies to show their appreciation. Donations to the poor are also common.

     Songkran is celebrated with water fights using water guns, water balloons, etc. Emily Mahatmachai (‘26) said, “If you were in Thailand during this time, you will experience being wet when you go around town, because people splash you with jasmine water as a blessing. It’s a happy and friendly tradition where people throw water at you wherever you go.”

     Some foods eaten are tom yum goong (spice curry with shrimp and mushrooms), mango sticky rice, pad thai (rice noodles with meat and vegetables), and various types of salads. 

     Mahatmachai said, “Songkran teaches you to appreciate and be grateful of your family for all they have done for you. It’s a memorable ceremony that makes you remember your childhood and not forget your parents, grandparents and extended family.”

 

PHOTO PROVIDED BY ELIZABETH CASEY (’27)

Hanami

     Hanami, which translates to “flower viewing,” is a Japanese spring tradition that celebrates the flowering of cherry blossoms. The flowering is expected to last from the end of March to mid – April.

    “Hanami symbolizes the beauty of nature and land as well as family gathering and the beginning of spring,” Victoria Casey (‘25) said. “Hanami obviously relates to spring because the flowers bloom in the spring, but there are things like spring cleaning and the new school year in Japan, so it’s a new refreshing start.”

     People mainly enjoy flowers on sakura (cherry) trees and ume (plum) trees. Hanami is celebrated by having picnics under cherry blossom trees with family and friends.

     People also celebrate by eating certain dishes. One food eaten on Hanami is hanami dango, which are Japanese rice flour dumplings covered in sweet soy sauce. Another food  traditionally eaten on this day is sakura mochi, which is a rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste and covered with cherry blossom leaves. There are also different types of cherry blossom themed sweets like cherry blossom cookies, puddings, and cakes.

     In the US, a key Hanami celebration is the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C taking place from March 20-April 14.

 

Easter

     Easter is a Christian holiday celebrated throughout the world, especially the United States and Europe. It took place on March 31 this year and commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion three days earlier.

     Although it is uncertain from where the word “Easter” emerged, one view links it to the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, the goddess of spring and fertility. 

     In 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea, which was made up of a council of Christian bishops in the Roman empire, decided that Easter should be observed on the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Unlike Roman Catholics and Protestants, Eastern Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar instead for the date of Easter, resulting in a later celebration.

     Easter is celebrated through church services, gift exchanges, and Easter dinner, which traditionally is done with family and friends and consists of ham, potatoes, vegetable side dishes, and eggs.

     People also participate in a traditional Easter egg hunt, which is popular for children. These eggs symbolize the creation of new life, and are associated with the significance of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter.

     Math teacher Ms. Tina Thomas said, “Easter is an example for people because of the belief that there is life after death, so it’s all about new beginnings.”

 

PHOTO PROVIDED BY IZZA MUDASSIR

Eid

     Eid al-Fitr translates to “Holiday of Breaking Fast” in Arabic. This Muslim holiday marks the end of the month-long fasting of Ramadan, and took place on April 11 . The origins of Eid are credited to the Islamic prophet Muhammad when he migrated to Medina and saw people part-take in recreational festivities on this specific day. He remarked that God had initiated this day specifically for celebrations.

     The Eid prayer is done in an open area like a mosque, field, or gathering center. This prayer asks for God’s sympathy, forgiveness, peace, and protection for the world.

     After people finish praying, traditionally, there are many gatherings within the community at places like community centers and large halls. In addition to these gatherings, people also make sweets and dishes to celebrate the end of fasting. 

     Izza Mudassir (‘25) said, “We believe that the Quran, which is our holy book, was revealed during the month of Ramadan. We’re thankful for God, we’re thankful for the Quran. It’s really like a month where you just focus on your connection with God, and becoming a better person, and you do that through fasting.”

     One popular sweet made on Eid is sheer khurma, which is a creamy vermicelli pudding. Another sweet eaten on Eid is halwa, mostly made of flour, cooked in water or milk, and flavored with spices. Baklava, a pastry consisting of chopped nuts and honey/syrup is also consumed. 

     Some additional sweets include jalebi–circular, crispy, flour shaped sweet soaked in syrup–and chomchom–oval-shaped sweets with milk, dry fruits, and coconuts.

     For the first time at South, the Muslim Student Association held the  fast breaking evening meal during Ramadan, Iftar, Iftar was held on April 1. 

     Mudassir said, “The first week, the club we made gratitude cards and gave them to a bunch of our teachers and faculty members to say thank you. Then another week, we basically made goodie bags and we filled them with sweet treats like cookies and brownies, and we gave them to volunteers at our mosque because the volunteers have been spending so much of their time helping.”

      “You should really come out of Ramadan gaining something new, being better, gaining a new habit or mindset, and something positive should come out of it.”

 

PHOTO PROVIDED BY VIDHI KAPOOR (’27)

 Spring Equinox in Teotihuacán and Chichen Itza

     The Spring Equinox in Teotihuacán recognizes the arrival of spring and is celebrated in Mexico around March 20 every year.  

     On this day, it is a tradition to stand on top of the Pyramid of the Sun because people believe that that is the time and place when portals of energy open and want to be closer to this energy. People typically raise their arms when standing on the pyramid on this day to acquire the heat and energy from the sun. 

     Over a million people visit the Pyramid of the Sun in Teohuacán, Mexico, every year, some even climbing the 248 uneven stairs made of volcanic rock to get to the top. In the same way, people of Mexican heritage also celebrate the arrival of spring in the city of Chichen Itza. 

     Similarly, every year, on the day of Spring Equinox, more than 25,000 people also visit the Pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, Mexico. The Pyramid of Kukulcan forms the shadow of the Mayan serpent God, Kukulkan, making it look like a snake is going down the stairs of the pyramid. 

     Ancient Mayans used advanced architecture and astronomy to intentionally design the pyramid in this way.

     A popular food in Chichen Itza is Papadzules, which are enchiladas stuffed with eggs and dipped in pumpkin seed and tomato sauce. Another dish is lime soup, consisting of broth filled with lime juice along with seasonings like oregano and cloves. A favorite delicacy in Chichen Itza is  Panuchos and Salbutes, made of corn masa and filled with beans, meat, and vegetables.

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