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Holidays

Montclair’s Fourth of July parade returns for 67th year

in Community/Holidays

COURTESY OF MONTCLAIR TOWNSHIP
The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps band will once again perform at the township’s Fourth of July parade.

Montclair’s annual Fourth of July parade with return for its 67th year on Tuesday, July 4, as will the township’s fireworks display. Montclair Celebrates announced on Sunday. That community-based organization was formed to preserve the municipality’s Independence Day celebrations.

The parade begins at 11 a.m. along a 1.6-mile route traveling west on Bloomfield Avenue to Midland Avenue, continuing to Watchung Avenue, west to Valley Road and ending at Edgemont Park, where the annual Family Picnic will be held.

The fireworks display is being held at Yogi Berra Stadium at the Montclair State University campus. The stadium admission fee is $3 per person or $10 for a family. A family is up to six people, with $2 per person beyond six, and free for kids ages 5 and under.

The gates will open at 6:30 p.m. Free parking will be available at the Carparc Diem deck, adjacent to Floyd Hall Arena and at the Red Hawk parking deck. Overflow vehicles will be directed to other parking areas. Concessions will be available; no outside food, water or other drinks may be brought into the stadium.

In terms of entertainment, once again this year the Fralinger String Band of Philadelphia Mummers fame will perform.

“This year the band’s ‘Spellbinding’ theme will see a sorcerer’s spells take the audience through a wondrous and wizardly world,” according to the parade announcement. “When the Sorcerer sees himself in his crystal ball, illusion shatters into reality and a spellbinding performance unfolds. See an amazing performance with talented musicians in fabulous costumes.”

Another parade highlight will be the return of the award-winning Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps, which has been has been seen by millions in such diverse appearances as a parade to commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington’s Inauguration, a performance in a church basement in Brooklyn, concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and the New York City Veteran’s Day Parade.

Raiders Drum and Bugle Corps — a nationally competitive drum corps based in Burlington, N.J., that was founded in 1990 — are also part of the parade lineup, as are Caporales San Simon, a Bolivian dance group, and the St. Columcille United Gaelic Band.

The parade’s participants will also include local favorites such as the Montclair Community Band, community groups and organizations who will have floats and marchers, fire engines, antique cars, and “Elvis.”

Montclair Celebrates chose the Montclair Community Pre-K as the Grand Marshal of this year’s paradee. The nationally recognized Pre-K program, whose mission is to offer all three- to five-year-olds in Montclair a high-quality preschool education regardless of the family’s ability to pay, enters its 20th school year this fall.

“Just like Montclair’s 4th of July parade, the Montclair Community Pre-K is one of our township’s greatest institutions,” Paul Brubaker, chairman of the Montclair Celebrates 4th of July Committee, said in a statement. “It has touched the lives of countless families during the past two decades and it is truly interwoven into the fabric of Montclair. We are thrilled that the Montclair Community Pre-K will be leading the parade when nearly everyone in town joins together for the event of the summer season.”

The township family picnic at Edgemont Park will follow the parade, and feature barbecue and ice cream from Applegate Farm.

Button sales for the fireworks are being offered at: the Montclair Recreation Department, 205 Claremont Ave., Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Investors Bank, 536 Bloomfield Ave.; Kings Supermarket, 650 Valley Rd.; Grove Pharmacy, 123 Grove St.; and Yogi Berra Stadium the night of the event starting at 7 p.m.

In the event of rain, the parade will go on, the picnic in Edgemont Park and fireworks at Yogi Berra Stadium will be canceled.

Rain cancellation/postponement announcements will be posted on the Montclair Township website and on TV34. A rain information phone number will be available: 973-509-4914; alerts will be sent out to Montclair Events and Township Services (METS) alert system subscribers (mets.montclairnjusa.org/Subscribe.aspx).

 

Montclair: The light of the summer

in Holidays/Holidays/Religion/Spirituality
Deborah Ann Tripoldi/Staff
Partners Joe Longo and Craig Sloan of Blu Lotus, arrange the fairy statues under their tree for the Summer Solstice— June 21. The blue lit tree is the altar for their shop on Church Street.

by Deborah Ann Tripoldi
tripoldi@montclairlocal.news

The longest day of the year and no, it’s not a Monday or Black Friday falls on Wednesday, June 21.

Summer begins that day at exactly 12:24 a.m. EDT.

The first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere is known by many names: the summer solstice, Midsummer, Alban Hefin (or “light of the summer”) to the Druids, or Litha to most pagans. It is one of eight sabbats, which mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year. They are seasonal festivals celebrating the cycles of nature.

Montclair resident Craig Sloan, co-owner of Blu Lotus on Church Street, said that wherever he and his partner, Joe Longo, may be on the summer solstice, they make sure to watch the sun set.

Sloan is an eclectic pagan, or as he puts it, “an explorer.” “The roots are all feeding to the same tree,” he said. Longo considers himself spiritual.

Midsummer is one of the two solstices. Directly opposite on the Wheel of the Year is the winter solstice, also known as Yule or Alban Arthan which usually falls on Dec. 21. The Celts and many other cultures celebrate the summer solstice with bonfires.

The word “solstice” means sun stopping: the sun appears to stop and then reverse direction as the days grow shorter or longer, depending on time of year. “When we use to have a large property we held a bonfire on the solstice,” said Sloan.

For those who observe the solstice, traditional colors to mark the holiday are blue, green and yellow. Some items presented on the pagan altar would be strawberries, oranges and tangerines, and flowers such as the sunflower, as well as anything associated with the sun or fire. Altars are usually in homes or created by a group. “I always light a white candle for clarity [on the Summer Solstice],” said Sloan. “I’m a nature lover and pick flowers to place on our altar in the bay window at home for the solstice.” “There are candles, sand and shells in there right now,” added Longo.

It is the most powerful day of the year for Bel, the Celtic God of the sun, who is associated with light, health and healing.

The day is the highest point of energy: “Energy is everything. Whatever the reason is, if we are not feeling it, we won’t force just because a calendar says when it has to be done. We wait until the time feels right,” he said. “Our ancestors went by the seasons changing, not a calendar.”

“In essence we live our lives seasonally,” said Sloan.

Sloan and Longo say they enjoy being outside, at Verona Park or the beach, for the solstice. “We honor the seasonal festivals,” said Longo.

Blu Lotus has a tall ornamental tree that Sloan decorates for each season with lights. It serves as the store’s altar. Currently the tree is lit in blue lights and surrounded by figurines of fairies. Sloan noted that his shop has a lot of fairy statues for Litha. “We have a fairy promotion especially for the solstice. There is a belief that the line between the world of fairy and ours is the thinnest at this time,” he said.

Herbalist Kim Sisco of Montclair, an employee at Blu Lotus, will be in upstate New York for the solstice. “Fifty-five acres of positive land to celebrate with other herbalists during the Green Wisdom Weekend,” she said. “We will gather plants and herbs, make herbal medicine and build a bonfire at the end of the day. We will share and do a releasement to the universe; write it on a piece of birch or paper and toss that to the fire. We sit still and converse with Mother Earth and within ourselves.”

Like Sisco, Longo does a lot of reflecting during this sabbat. “We write down our good and bad, compare them and place under a shell or a crystal and leave it until the next new moon. Then we … burn the bad ones,” he said.

For Longo it’s about “respecting the earth and taking care of what we have.”

Blu Lotus, 20 Church St., will hold a Healing Circle open to the public on Wednesday, June 21, from 8 to 9 p.m. Judie Hurtado, intuitive, Reiki master and spiritual teacher, will lead the circle, which will involve a “Welcoming the Light” meditation.

Ramadan: Montclair Muslims celebrate ‘an ongoing Thanksgiving’

in Community/Holidays/Holidays/Religion/Spirituality
Frances Aboushi looks proudly over her students’ posters on intolerance in Glenfield Middle School on Monday, June 11.
Neil Grabowsky/For Montclair Local.

By GWEN OREL and ANTOINETTE MARTIN
orel@montclairlocal.news

It’s very hot on the third floor of Glenfield Middle School.

That makes the fast of Ramadan just that little bit harder for Frances Aboushi, who teaches there, and students Rafid Khayum, 13, and Amir Carter, 12.

During the monthlong Muslim holiday, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. They take no food or drink, and refrain from intimate relations and violent emotions.

Ramadan, which began on Friday, May 26, is considered the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, and celebrates the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. Fasting is one of the five pillars of the faith.

“Up here on the third floor there is no air conditioning. It can get stuffy and hazy,” Aboushi said. “I learn how to pick my battles. I don’t have the energy to run marathons or run after things. Heat never makes you hungry. It just tires you out.”

Aboushi teaches “Human Rights and Violations,” a course with students in all three grades that “deconstructs major social problems and global issues,” such as Black Lives Matter, the refugee crisis and human trafficking. She also teaches in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) program.

Throughout Montclair and the region, Muslim children and their parents negotiate with the climate, weather-wise and otherwise, to observe their faith. It isn’t always easy.

Students “never hear about Islam unless it’s about terrorism. They feel muted,” the teacher said. “There aren’t specific classes that teach about religion, unless in the context of world civilization.” Right now, she said, the discourse sees Islam in a negative light, something “out there and foreign.”

In Montclair, at Glenfield, administration, staff and students recognize that Islam is a religion practiced right here.

In fact, there is a reminder in the staff bulletin for teachers to be mindful of fasting students, and not ask for excessive physical activity.

Not eating or drinking is difficult, especially at first — Aboushi joked about how relieved she was the first day of the month fell on a weekend, because “caffeine withdrawal is no joke.”

But the month itself is a spiritual one, she said.

“When food and water are taken away, your necessities, you’re able to feel with those that don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘I’m going to eat

Najla holds handsher daughter at Ramadan Breakfast at Masjid Al-Wadud on Saturday, June 10.
Neil Grabowsky/For Montclair Local.

by this time.’ Millions are facing starvation.” During the 30 days of the month, she said, Muslims increase their community service. “You have to pump up your community service, in the hope that when it’s over, you continue that model. It’s what we’re supposed to do, eat less because you give more to a group. When you take something away you start to realize what you’ve got. It’s a huge reminder of all the blessings we have.

“Every day it’s like Thanksgiving.”

LEARNING ABOUT RAMADAN
One way non-Muslims learn about the holiday is by joining with those who celebrate it.

This past Friday, June 9, a youth group from First Congregational Church joined the Peace Islands Institute in Hasbrouck Heights for an iftar (evening break fast) celebration. John Rogers, director of the FCC youth group and associate pastor at the church, explained that the group has met with the PII youth group, run by Feyza Teke, for several years. PII is a national nonprofit organization based in Hasbrouck Heights that works to build connections among cultures. Teke explained that while the FCC group doesn’t fast, “We open our doors for them. There is a short presentation, how Ramadan is celebrated. After a call to prayer, everyone eats the break fast.”

“They really do get deep with one another,” said Rogers, a Montclair High School graduate of the Class of 2007. “The kids at PII told our kids what it was like to wear a hijab, and they expressed real frustration around the word ‘terrorist.’ People so often associate that word with Muslim.”

Leyla Yurt, a freshman at Cedar Grove High School, is part of the Peace Island group. Her friend Julie Korgen, a junior at MHS, attends FCC. Both attended Friday’s iftar.

Yurt, a fencer, said she was worried about how the fast would affect her matches, but that the challenging fast soon became routine.
“I’m a thin person, and don’t usually eat a lot. That helps me. At iftar, I eat more than usual — veggies, salad, protein, because I will be making it through until the next iftar.” Also, she said, food tastes better when she does eat it. “As a teen, I think about cookies, pizza, ice cream, and when we finally get to have it, it’s great.”

Korgen said that she likes supporting her Muslim friends: “They are practicing their faith, as we do at Lent.”

Imam Kevin Dawud Amin, right, of Montclair’s Masjid Al-Wadud Mosque shares a laugh with member and Hillside School teacher Omar Ibn Abdullah of East Orange, following prayers on May 25. All are Montclair residents.
Dale Mincey/For Montclair Local.

Omar Ibn Abdullah, a paraprofessional at Hillside Elementary School who works with students with special needs, said that some students might feel reluctant to talk about fasting, worried that what they are doing might be bothering other people. But every monotheistic religion has fast days, he tells them.

He draws his students out, to help them feel more relaxed about it– and also to take their minds off feeling hungry or thirsty.
Teachers don’t always realize that they need to be more patient with fasting students, he said. “They are trying to get through the day without exerting too much energy.” And it often seems like “during Ramadan there are the most cookouts.” Like Rogers, Ibn Abdullah is a Montclair High graduate. He said he had just changed his name from Otis Wright Jr.

Like Glenfield, Hillside is supportive: Ibn Abdullah is able to attend prayers at the mosque on Friday afternoons.

‘A GREAT TRAINING’

Najla holds handsher daughter at Ramadan Breakfast at Masjid Al-Wadud on Saturday, June 10.Neil Grabowsky/For Montclair Local.

Mifan Careem (right) and son Said (center) fill their plates – Ramadan Breakfast at Masjid Al-Wadud on Saturday, June 10.
Neil Grabowsky/For Montclair Local.

At Saturday’s iftar, about 50 people, women and girls in their best hijabs, attended the Masjid in Montclair to break the fast together. A buffet included spicy chickpeas, sassafras milk, fresh fruit, bottled water, dates and cake. Children pulled on their parents’ hands.
Imam Kevin Dawud Amin said that bigger masjids have break fasts every day. The meals are hosted by different people, though many others bring food: “Everybody wants to serve the dinner because you get the blessing of everybody eating. You are the one who feeds the people who have had the fast all day.”

Riz Haider, who lives in Glen Ridge, was one of the hosts of Saturday’s iftar. He attended with his wife and two children, ages 6 and 8. Haider said that while his school system is supportive, he does send notes to the teachers. Kwanzaa, he said, was just recognized in the school recently. “It’s a learning process.”

Some of the young children at Saturday’s iftar at the masjid had begun fasting in steps: third-grader Nadia, who attends Northeast Elementary, fasts only on weekends. She gets up at 3 or 4 a.m. with her family, and has a meal to start the day.

Sarah, a 9-year-old who attends the Charles H. Bullock School, doesn’t fast on school days, but does full days on weekends.
But some children fast the entire day.

Safiyah, a 9-year old at Hillside School, fasts the entire day and doesn’t find it difficult at all.

“It’s like a normal day, nothing much of a change really,” she said. Then she asked her mother, Reny, “Can I have cake now?”

Reny said that this is the first year Safiyah has done a full-day fast. “She started last year, skipping breakfast in the morning. I tell her, ‘If you feel hungry or thirsty, go ahead and drink.’ I also tell her the same for this year. I don’t want to force anything on her, but want her to know as a Muslim, this is what we do on Ramadan.”

Aboushi said she began fasting in fourth grade, in steps: She’d break her fast at noon. Then work up to 12:15. Eventually, she could last the whole day. “Because a family is fasting, kids naturally want to do what the grownups are doing.

“It really is a great training, a great discipline to learn how to navigate, learn how to control your wants and needs.”

‘SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE’
Rafid Khayum, the Glenfield student, said that he hasn’t told his teachers that he is fasting, and that he does sit in the lunch room because his friends are there.

And while schoolwork in mid-June generally lightens up, he has finals to study for, including an algebra final.

But, he said, there are “religious benefits” to the fast. And it feels good when he breaks his fast.

While Rafid’s voice seemed, late in the afternoon, just a little drained by the stuffiness of the room, Amir Carter spoke with energy to spare. Amir said that he even goes to football practice, “but I don’t play as hard as I normally would.”

He said that he heard there was something in the school bulletin, so he told his teachers he was one of the kids fasting.

Sometimes, he said, “Ms. Aboushi lets me pray in her room.”

Aboushi said that when children begin to fast when they are little, by the time they get to middle school or high school, “it’s grounded.”

Safiyah Toking eats some cake – Ramadan Breakfast at Masjid Al-Wadud on Saturday, June 10.
Neil Grabowsky/For Montclair Local.

When she was growing up in Brooklyn, there was “a lot of ignorance to what we were doing.” Some people thought of it as “a mean holiday, a way to torture kids.”

So, when she was in middle school, she put together a “Ramadan party,” which celebrates the Eid al-Fitr, the four-day end of the fast. This year, it begins on Saturday, June 24.

For the party, she collected money and had the fasting children sign up for what their moms would bring to school.

Some parents brought stuffed grape leaves. Others brought chicken nuggets and fries. Aboushi, whose parents are immigrants from Jerusalem, said she prefers apple pie to baklava. The combination of foreign and all-American food on the same plate is a bit like being a Muslim-American, she said.

“You can be Muslim-American, enjoy the culture, hip-hop, and still do your five prayers. You’re just as American.”

Indoor ceremony remembers the fallen on Memorial Day

in Holidays
ELIZABETH OGUSS/STAFF
Members of the Montclair Police Department Honor Guard processed out of the Township Council chambers to the parking lot of the municipal building to fire the salute on a rainy Memorial Day on Monday.

A great blue heron flying eastward was silhouetted against the white sky as the Montclair Police Department honor guard fired a salute to the fallen at the township’s annual solemn observance of Memorial Day on Monday.

Because of the rain, the ceremony was held in the Township Council chambers in the municipal building. A crowd that might have looked thin at Edgemont Memorial Park filled the room to capacity for the 45-minute event, which was presided over by Deputy Mayor William Hurlock.

Pat Brechka, Montclair director of recreation and cultural affairs, returned early from a weekend at the shore to make arrangements after guest speaker Jocelyn Gilman of the American Red Cross Northern New Jersey Region had to cancel, owing to a death in the family. Hurlock filled in for Gilman.

Before and after the ceremony, a 15-member detachment from the Montclair Community Band played patriotic tunes, led by Band Manager Barbara Rudy. In attendance were Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson and council members Renée Baskerville, Sean Spiller and Robert Russo. Also present were Police Chief Todd Conforti and Deputy Chief Wil Young, as well as Township Fire Chief John Herrmann.

Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, D-34, was also present. Veterans in the audience were asked to stand and be recognized.

Participants in the ceremony included soprano Frances Duffy, who led the singing of the national anthem; Boy Scout Troop 12, which led the Pledge of Allegiance; and the Rev. John Rogers of First Congregational Church, who blessed the memorial wreath.

“Bless this wreath in the knowledge that the cost of war is too great,” Rogers said. “So may we restore peace within us, may we restore peace in this land, and may we restore peace all over this world.”

In his remarks on the Red Cross, cobbled together from notes Gilman had given him and his own research, Hurlock described the founding of the Red Cross in Europe in the 1850s and its establishment in the United States thanks to decades of advocacy by Clara Barton. Montclair’s chapter was founded in 1898, Hurlock said, at the time of the Spanish-American War.

Carl Witzig of the Montclair Community Band played taps. The blessing and benediction were given by Rabbi David Greenstein of Congregation Shomrei Emunah.

In his closing prayer, Greenstein said, “May the powerful leaders of all nations be blessed with the power of compassion. … Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea. And let us say amen.”

Ramadan: less food, more words

in Community/Holidays
Marina Budhos, left, and Kevin Dawud Amin discuss her book “Watched” at Montclair High School on May 19.
GWEN OREL/STAFF

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Not eating during the day is not the hardest thing about Ramadan, for Kevi Dawud Amin, of the Masjid Ul Wadud mosque on Bloomfield Avenue.
It’s reading the entire Quran.

Many people know that during Ramadan, which will probably start in the evening of Friday, May 26, and continue through the evening of Saturday, June 24, Muslims do not eat from sunrise to sunset.

Small children, pregnant women, the sick and elderly do not fast.

It’s only “probably” that the event starts Friday because the Muslim calendar is based on a lunar month. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, and Muslims wait for the new moon to appear before announcing the holiday.

Non-Muslims may also know that during this period, Muslims refrain from physical relationships with their spouses from sunrise to sunset.
The positive aspects and requirements of the month are less well known.

Before the month starts, “I try to read more,” Amin says. He also prepares his body for the month-long fast by fasting a bit.

During the month, he says he “try to give more charity, pray more, and do more acts of faith.

“The intention is that by you doing this every day for 29-30 days, you will carry habits over to the rest of the year.”

Ramadan is the month that Muslims believe the Quran was revealed.

By fasting, “mentally, it allows you to focus more on faith and incentives,” Amin said. “It sounds a lot harder and more difficult than it is.”

He doesn’t become hungry or weak, unless early in the day he finds himself yelling or arguing. Anger has a draining effect on the body.

“Really, I’m just trying to get that Quran read,” he said. The Holy Book is divided into 30 parts, and for the past 15 years he’s made it through 27 or 28.

It’s not about time: “I have time to watch boxing, basketball, comedy, the latest Bourne movie,” Amin said with a laugh. “It’s really about discipline.”

For a future article, we’d like to find out about Ramadan in the school system. If you are a Muslim who fasts in the school system, a teacher or a parent of a Montclair student, we want to hear from you! Write to us at culture@montclairlocal.news

 

May in Montclair opening ceremonies

in Children/Community/Holidays/Montclair Public Schools
DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Edgemont School’s two first-grade classes, consisting of about 50 children under the direction of music teacher Max Mellman, dance around twirling the ribbons while singing “Here We Go Round the Maypole High” during the May in Montclair opening ceremonies at Watchung Plaza.

DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
The Watchung School fourth- and fifth-graders under the direction of music teacher Henry Boote sing “Here Comes the Sun” and “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” during the opening ceremony.

 

DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Northeast Elementary School Blue Hawks, fifth- and sixth-graders under the direction of music teacher Shawn Dey perform “The Thunderer” and “Cyberspace Overture,” to conclude the ceremony.
DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Edgemont School children dance around the Maypole. Full story to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montclair holds Easter egg hunt at Glenfield Park

in Holidays
Mr. Bunny’s Springtime Fun was held Saturday morning, April 8, at Glenfield Park, 25 Maple Ave. The event was hosted by the Montclair Department of Recreation & Cultural Affairs, in conjunction with PBA Local 53.
The children welcomed spring with Mr. Bunny inside the recreation house as well as greeting the Easter Bunny (4th Ward Township Councilwoman Renée Baskerville) outside. Activities included egg hunt, egg decorating, face painting, prizes and candy.
Above photos by staff photographer Deborah Ann Tripoldi.

Montclair: springing into a new year

in Holidays/Holidays
Karen Aistars, left, of Mystic Spirit Metaphysical Shoppe and Cher A Chirichello prepare an Ostara altar for the Spring Equinox on March 20. The shop will be holding an open Ostara Ritual on Saturday evening, March 18.
PHOTO BY DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI

By GWEN OREL

orel@montclairlocal.news

The Gregorian calendar may say the new year begins on Jan. 1, but the new planting season begins in the spring. Some religions reflect that by starting the year in spring.

For Wiccans and Pagans, the spring equinox of Ostara is a special time on the calendar. While Samhain, Oct. 31, begins the new year, Ostara marks the start of the astrological calendar.

“Aries is the first sign of the zodiac,” said Karen Aistars, chatting while also serving customers at Mystic Spirit, her metaphysical shop in Montclair, on 324 Bloomfield Ave.

If the word looks familiar, it may be because the holiday is named for Eostra, the same goddess whose name is used for Easter. The spring goddess, or vernal maiden, represents fertility and rebirth.

Ostara, said Aistars, is one of eight Pagan holidays the shop celebrates over the course of the year.
Mystic Spirit will hold an Ostara ritual on Saturday, March 18. For more information, visit mysticspirit.net.

Aistars, who runs the store with her husband Davis, said the rituals usually have about dozen in attendance. At Ostara, participants will plant seeds in pots that they take home with them.

“For me, it is about new beginnings, growth, resurrection. The stirring of life. Warmth is coming back, daylight is increasing.” At the vernal equinox, Aistars said, there is equal day and night, and then the days start getting longer. “This is the waxing cycle,” she said.

The symbols of the holiday may also seem familiar: bunnies and eggs. “Eggs spring with life,” Aistars said. “Rabbits and birds are mating. What is going on around you makes you feel renewed. People are planting. It’s a time to honor and recognize the earth and seasons, gods and goddesses.” For Aistars, who was brought up Catholic, the gods and goddesses are aspects of the Divine, but everyone has their own belief system, she said. For her, “gods and goddesses are part of the all.”

While she was speaking, a couple came in to the shop asking for help removing a malignant spirit from their home. She also had a deadline to carve a love candle for a client. She said she does consider herself a witch, and spells are like prayers. Some get results, some might not be what she had in mind.

For example, she’s never had much luck with seeds, she said. “Sometimes they sprout and died. One year I had a sunflower growing really good. The cat ate it.
“I just keep trying.”

SPIRITUALLY ALIGNING

A child’s art created for Naw-Ruz uses Bahai writings. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAMELA ZIVARI.

Spring is also the beginning of the Bahá’í calendar year, and  occurs near the vernal equinox. While Wiccans and pagans celebrate Ostara, adherents of Bahá’í will celebrate Naw-Rúz. This year the holiday begins on the evening of Monday, March 20, and lasts until March 21.

For 19 days leading up to the holiday, Bahá’í practitioners fast from sunup to sundown.
“The goal is to have one’s thoughts directed more to spiritual matters, not to be so caught up in the day-to-day,” said Pamela Zivari, of Montclair. She is a member of the spiritual assembly in Montclair; Bahá’ís don’t have clergy.   “It’s a time of reflection…  looking for clarityand aligning oneself more closely with one’s spiritual goals.” Zivari then said with a laugh, “Make it sound better. I haven’t eaten all day.”

While not eating can make word choice a chore, she said, “Believe it or not it’s easier for me to concentrate. It sounds a bit bizarre, but I’m not distracted by thinking about what I’m going to do for lunch. When I was younger it was hard. I didn’t like it at all. Now I see the wisdom of it.”

Like Aistars, she was not brought up in her current faith. Zivari was an Episcopalian and became a member of Bahá’í in her 20s, she said.

She said was attracted to the inclusivity of the religion, and its encouragement of the rational side of human beings.Montclair has about 20 adults and 10 children who practice, not counting another 10 more college-age kids, she said.

Prior to the fast, there is a period of gift-giving and service-providing that lasts 4 to 5 days, she said. The Bahá’í calendar has 19 months of 19 days, with what are known as intercalary days in between.

At the end of the fast, there is usually a big party to celebrate the holiday. In Montclair, adherents will gather at Zivari’s house.

Participants will have “just experienced the fast, which is a time of reflection, of setting goals for personal growth and service. Having come through this time into a celebratory time, just about the time the weather is turning warmer and spring is arriving– it’s synchronous.

“It’s a realignment. It’s really meaningful.” For Zivari, it’s a time to be grateful for her family and her good fortune, and look forward to finding ways “to contribute to the unity of our community, because we are in such a divisive time right now.”

Montclair: send us your best limerick!

in Holidays

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Montclair is a town full of writers. So, we triple dog dare you: write us a limerick! Bonus points for Montclair references. No profanity please — and yes, we know that’s hard in this format (mild bawdiness welcome). Send your best to: arts@montclairlocal.news. If we don’t get a winner, we’ll be forced to print a clean version of “There once was a girl from Nantucket.” And nobody wants to see that. Good luck!

Montclair celebrates International Women’s Day

in Community/Holidays
Suffragist Lucy Stone (1818-1893) lived in Montclair for three years.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Women achieved the right to vote when the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, but had been marching for it since the middle of the 19th century. Notable Suffragist Lucy Stone lived in Montclair, at 118 North Mountain Ave., for three years. Accomplished women still live and work in Montclair: see our list below. Send your suggestions accomplished women in Montclair to arts@montclairlocal.news.

Think celebrating women’s history is a 21st-century nod to political correctness? Think again. The first International Women’s Day, March 8, was declared in 1911. President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 2-8 “Women’s History Week” in 1980, and in 1987, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the president to declare March Women’s History Month. Every president has done so.

In the U.S. this year, some women are going on strike, calling the day “A Day Without a Woman.” The strike is a follow-up to the Women’s March that took place on Jan. 21.

In addition, many women are wearing red, bringing attention to women’s heart health: heart disease is the number one killer of women.

Many women-owned businesses in Montclair are closed today, including Montclair Bread Company and Oh, My Cod!

Some local businesses owned by women are open, however, if you’d like to support them.

Baristanet.com (which is owned by a woman) listed many, including: Java Love; Olive That and More; Plum on Park; BLondon; Toast; Amanti Vinol Egan & Sons: Little Daisy Bake Shop; Watchung Booksellers (who are offering a 20 percent discount on all books by women); Parlor Hair Studio; Allure Hair Studio; Ahava Felicidad Hair & Body; DollyMoo; Novelle; Aris Couture; Dot Reeder; Valley Girl; and Music Together.

Montclair includes many celebrated women in all areas.  Here are some. Have someone you’d like to nominate? Send names of accomplished women in Montclair to arts@montclairlocal.news.

In the arts:

  • Sharron Miller, choreographer
  • Gail Prusslin, Outpost in the Burbs
  • Christina Baker Kline, novelist

In government:

  • Renée Baskerville, Fourth Ward councilwoman
  • Nia Gill, New Jersey state senator
  • Linda Wanat, municipal clerk

In sports:

  • Alisa Wiggins, MHS senior, team captain and point guard on girls basketball team
  • Kerri McGuire, MKA junior, shooting guard/small forward on girls basketball team
  • Montclair High School girls epee fencing squad: state champions for the second consecutive year.

In education:

  • Jessica de Koninck, Board of Education president
  • Siobhan McCarthy, Montclair Environmental Commission member
  • Susan Cole, Montclair State University president
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