Holy Holi Day and the Promise of a Happier Future


A convergence of religion and spring… What does it mean for our mental health?




“Hope springs eternal.”

- Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”

From the Spring Equinox in 2023 to now, it has been a notable year for what I call the social psychopathologies, including 2 major wars. Last year, on March 27, I wrote one of my predictive columns, “A Social Psychiatric Classification: Social Psychiatric Prediction #5,”

hoping for a trend in that direction. Since then, I was invited twice to appear and discuss it on the health care broadcast Talk Ten Tuesday, and have not yet received any strong criticisms.

The first day of any spring tends to bring such hope as nature seems to be blooming in all its beauty and vitality in many places in the northern hemisphere. In 2023, that equinox was March 19, when the sun was directly over the equator and its energy balanced between the 2 hemispheres. If only our interpersonal energy could be so balanced too! It even started a few hours earlier due to it being a leap year, which metaphorically could reflect the urgency to move ahead for a happier future. Yet, with climate instability, it has also been a year and time of unusually disastrous storms.

As if our ancient religions understood the promise of spring, perhaps even as a reflection of the Jungian collective unconscious, this is also a time of year of many related religious holidays.

We are already in Islamic Ramadan, a time for spiritual growth and improved relationships. We are also in the 13-day period of the 3500-year-old holiday of Nowruz, originally a Zoroastrianism holiday to reset valuing family and connections with nature. The Jewish holiday of Purim occurred over the weekend and celebrates the historical story of overcoming the genocidal attempt of Haman toward the Jews. Christian Good Friday and Easter, which honors the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is on its way, as is Jewish Passover, which celebrates the quest from slavery to the holy land.

But today is the celebration of the Hindu holy holiday of Holi, with rituals that includes playing with colors. Holi is a time to repair relationships and feel gratitude for the beauty around us. As Drs Gogineni, Sharma, and I conveyed in our edited book on anti-Semitism and psychiatry, there is virtually no evidence of anti-Semitism in Hinduism.1

All those major religions have overlapping positive aspirations. Yet, like individuals, they all seem to have a dark side that can contribute to external and internal group conflict via social psychopathologies like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. Especially when the extreme and reassurance of fundamentalism takes over, any religion can increasingly scapegoat the other.

The question for us in psychiatry is whether we can apply our knowledge and healing tools to the greater good, religious or otherwise, besides that of individuals. I am betting that we can. And you?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.


1. Moffic HS, Peteet JR, Hankir A, Seeman MV, eds. Anti-Semitism and Psychiatry. Springer; 2000.

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