I am a happy transplant to Maine, still in love with each year’s drama played out in the changing seasons. Even if you’re a native, I’ll bet you’re as eager as I am to hear bird song and spot the first robin, to smell thawing earth and see crocuses poking their brave little heads through the last of the snow, announcing that spring is here and bringing new hope, new energy, new life. We don’t have a corner on that market: Cultures throughout history and around the world celebrate newness of life in the spring.

Easter was celebrated in most Christian communities last Sunday (though it’s celebrated tomorrow in churches of the Eastern Rite or Orthodox traditions), with rituals of sunrise services, colored eggs, new clothes, and celebration of new life. The date of Easter, decreed by the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE to be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, points to its connection to the Jewish celebration of Pesach, or Passover, which begins on the first full moon after the spring equinox. (For a word about the name “Easter,” read on…) Easter celebrates the new life represented in the story of Jesus’ resurrection and the newness of life springing forth all around us in this season. Similarly, Passover commemorates the new life made possible by the storied escape of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt (when the angel of death “passed over” their homes, marked with the blood of the paschal lamb) and celebrates the new life with which we are blessed each year. Today, April 7, is the last day of the Passover celebration, marked with gatherings of family and friends for the Seder, the ritual meal that tells the story with special ritual foods, including eggs and fresh greens.

From the Zoroastrian tradition comes the Persian and Baha’i New Year, “Norooz” or “Naw Ruz,” meaning “New Day.” It coincides with the spring equinox and is celebrated with retelling stories of the triumph of good over evil, spiritual growth and renewal, and features freshly grown spring grass and colored eggs.

Older than all of these is Ostara, the ancient and contemporary Pagan celebration of new life at the spring equinox, when daylight has returned to be in balance with darkness. It recalls the story of the descent of Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, into the underworld with her husband Hades for the half of the year during which her absence above causes the onset of darkness and cold of winter, and her triumphant return each spring to our world for the other half of the year prompting the return of warmth and light and growth in summer. Celebrations include gathering at dawn to greet the sunrise, decorating with eggs, fresh greens, flowers and bunnies, dressing in new clothes and feasting in celebration of new life. Ostara also has in common with Easter its name’s roots in the name of a pre-Christian Germanic goddess, Oestre, celebrated as a bringer of light and dawn.

March also saw the Hindu celebrations of the New Year, March 18 and Holi, known also as the “Festival of Colors,” on the full moon day, March 2. It is an exuberant celebration of spring and of the triumph of good over evil, with ritual fires and retelling of the story of Holika, sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, who was destroyed in fire as the faithful pray that the evil in their own hearts will be. Celebrations also feature music and dancing and the splashing of colored water and smearing of colored paints on one another.

One even earlier celebration of the New Year is that of Chinese traditions on Feb. 16, the turn of the Chinese luni-solar calendar on the full moon between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. Also known as the Spring Festival, its traditions include honoring heaven and earth, retelling ancient mythic stories, and reverencing ancestors. Most familiar to us are the iconic fireworks, exuberant parades of lanterns and dragons, and the animals of the Chinese zodiac, this year being a Year of the Dog, celebrating the quality of loyalty.

Whatever the culture or tradition, mythic background or means of celebration, it seems all of us welcome renewal of life in spring. Just when we begin to think there’s nothing new under the sun, or that all is lost, or that civilization is headed “to hell in a handbag,” new life – whether it bursts from the sky as fireworks, from the earth as fresh herbs and colorful flowers, or from the prisons of slavery or the tomb – gives hope to humanity and we are made new in its joyful glow. Let’s celebrate it with abandon, in whatever religious or cultural expression we find it, and take on afresh the challenges and blessings that are ours in this season of new life!

Andrea Thompson McCall is a retired United Church of Christ minister and served as Interfaith Chaplain at the University of Southern Maine.