As yellow-orange flames crackle nearby, two girls embrace. One holds a piece of bread; around them, Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews burn leavened foodstuffs that are forbidden during Passover as part of the commemoration of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.
Hindu women and children caked in neon hues grin during massive, joyful celebrations of the Holi festival in India, marked by the throwing of colorful powder and the spraying of water.
And in Indian-controlled Kashmir, women raise their hands in prayer at a holy shrine on the occasion of Mehraj-u-Alam, believed to celebrate the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad to heaven.
All of these are images captured by AP photographers in March, as springtime ushered in a host of religious holidays and festivals observed by the faithful around the world.
There was Shivratri, dedicated to the worship of Shiva, the Hindu god of death and destruction, which a holy man in Nepal celebrated with a sacred bath and then prayer. And the Maslenitsa festival, an Orthodox Christian holiday that was marked in a snowy Russian village with the torching of a wooden construction ringed by a crowd of onlookers.
And of course there was Palm Sunday, celebrated in commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
In Bolivia, crosses woven from lush palm fronds were arrayed on a blue tarp for sale outside the San Francisco Basilica.
In Israel, beaming nuns took a group selfie atop the Mount of Olives with their masks down below their chins. A year after pandemic restrictions halted mass gatherings, the country has undertaken an aggressive vaccination campaign allowing many aspects of normal life to return.
That was a stark contrast with the scene at Saint Peter Parish Church in the Philippines, where a priest walked past empty pews with lit candles in preparation for an online Mass after the government banned religious activities during Holy Week and toughened lockdown measures to try to contain an alarming surge of the coronavirus.
These and more are among the AP’s top faith-related images from March.