Time and its reckoning are totally subjective and not
scientific. Scientifically speaking, during the calendar year, there are two
solstices (summer and winter) and two equinoxes (spring and autumn). "Equinox"
is a Latin word that means "equal night," which explains that there are twelve
hours each of daylight and night.
Yesterday was this yearís vernal equinox and was also
celebrated in many countries as the first day of spring.
In addition to teaching our children about various
spring rituals, we can also explain to them that different cultures and
religions have a variety of ways to pinpoint and celebrate the seasons and the
beginnings of the years as well.
There are places where yesterday was not noted as the
first day of spring. In Romania it was March 1. In Japan, it depends on the
appearance of the first cherry blossoms, which means that even within the same
country, the first day of spring will vary, depending on how far north or south
And let us not forget the southern hemisphere. In this
half of the world, the seasons are opposite ours, so the summer is now coming to
a close and autumn is beginning in such places as Australia and the southern
parts of Africa and South America.
There are also different starting dates for the new
year. The Persian new year, Norooz, coincides with the vernal equinox. It is a
time of renewal, as are most spring celebrations. There are seven foods that are
associated with this day. Each starts with the "s" sound in Farsi, the Persian
language. In English, these foods are grain pudding, vinegar, garlic, green
sprouts, apples, sumac, and a date-like fruit.
Parents and teachers are in a position to teach our
children that are many ways to acknowledge and celebrate these events. Doing
things differently from others does not make them or us wrong or right --- just
different. And we do what we can to learn about others from both their
similarities and their differences.
Jay Davidson has been teaching in San Francisco since 1969; he
teaches first grade. His column appears Thursdays in the Daily News. He is the
author of Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís Advice for Parents, which
is available at Amazon.com and wherever books are sold.