Turns out yesterday was a convergence of matters holy. In addition to Good Friday and Purim, other notable Holy Days from around the world that took place on March 21. Among them, Eid–the birth of the Prophet, among some Muslims. More remarkable is the fact that such a convergence is incredibly rare, due to the fact that none of the major occasions marked on Friday is keyed to the same calendar date or event. You’ve probably seen the reports that Easter is unusually early this year, making the scramble for flowers more pressing, and that the last time it was this early was nearly a century ago.
But Time notes the significance of this year’s Good Friday:
But unlike some holy days — say, Christmas, which some non-Christians in the U.S. observe informally by going to a movie and ordering Chinese food — on this particular Friday, March 21, it seems almost no believer of any sort will be left without his or her own holiday. In what is statistically, at least, a once-in-a-millennium combination, the following will all occur on the 21st:
- Good Friday
- Purim, a Jewish festival celebrating the biblical book of Esther
- Narouz, the Persian New Year, which is observed with Islamic elaboration in Iran and all the “stan” countries, as well as by Zoroastrians and Baha’is.
- Eid Milad an Nabi, the Birth of the Prophet, which is celebrated by some but not all Sunni Muslims and, though officially beginning on Thursday, is often marked on Friday.
- Small Holi, Hindu, an Indian festival of bonfires, to be followed on Saturday by Holi, a kind of Mardi Gras.
- Magha Puja, a celebration of the Buddha’s first group of followers, marked primarily in Thailand.
“Half the world’s population is going to be celebrating something,” says Raymond Clothey, Professor Emeritus of Religious studies at the University of Pittsburgh. “My goodness,” says Delton Krueger, owner of www.interfaithcalendar.org, who follows “14 major religions and six others.” He counts 20 holidays altogether (including some religious double-dips, like Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) between the 20th (which is also quite crowded) and the 21st. He marvels: “There is no other time in 2008 when there is this kind of concentration.”
And in fact for quite a bit longer than that. Ed Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz, co-authors of the books Calendrical Calculations and Calendrical Tabulations, determined how often in the period between 1600 and 2400 A.D. Good Friday, Purim, Narouz and the Eid would occur in the same week. The answer is nine times in 800 years. Then they tackled the odds that they would converge on a two-day period. And the total is … only once: tomorrow. And that’s not even counting Magha Puja and Small Holi.
Unless you are mathematically inclined, however, you may not see the logic in all this. If it’s the 21st of March, you may ask, shouldn’t all the religions of the world celebrate the same holiday on that date each year?
No. There are a sprinkling of major holidays (Western Christmas is one) that fall each year on the same day of the Gregorian calendar, a fairly standard non-religious system and the one Americans are most familiar with.
But almost none of tomorrow’s holidays actually follows that calendar.
The story is here. HT to ePisco Sours.