When writing about holidays, I’m always looking for patterns, for common elements that bridge cultures and religions. And one of the interesting customs that appears over and over again at this particular moment in spring is a holiday that encourages people to spend the day outdoors.
In the Persian trio of holidays I described in an earlier post, this holiday is called the Sizdeh Bedar (Thirteenth Outside). This year it falls on April 1. People spend the day outside, enjoying picnic foods, singing, and dancing. The sprouted greens (sabzeh) that decorate the Naw-Ruz table are taken out and thrown on the ground or in a river or lake, which carries away any ills that might infect the household during the year.
In the Christian holiday tradition, the Monday after Easter is often treated as a holiday that people spend beside rivers, often splashing each other with water, which also gives it the name of Ducking Monday.
The Poles celebrate the Monday after Easter under the name of Dyngus Day. The customs are familiar: boys splash girls with water and also strike at them with pussy willow wands (both sound like remnants of fertility rituals). In earlier times, the girls had to wait for a chance to get revenge until Thursday, when they threw crockery at the boys. However, now it is more common for them to fight back with water on Monday.
In Italy, the day after Easter Sunday is called La Pasquetta, Little Easter. Everyone goes on a picnic, meant to last all afternoon. They take along an antipasto of a hard-boiled egg and salt and local bitter herbs like arugula or radicchio or fennel.
I like the idea that there is a mandated day for picnics, and although the weather might not be right where you live for an alfresco feast on The Thirteenth Outside, or Easter Monday, you might want to take advantage of the first opportunity that comes your way to spend the day outdoors and create your own Picnic Day.
Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”