Spring with its promise of new beginnings and warmer days holds a firm grasp on our imagination. This much anticipated turn in the seasons and the Spring Equinox has been celebrated by cultures throughout history. For some it’s a spiritual renewal and rebirth; for others the heralding of nature at it’s most bountiful. We take a look at a kaleidoscope of fascinating Spring festivals around the world.
In Japan, Hanami is a centuries old custom, which means flower viewing, specifically the viewing of the delicate Sakura (cherry blossom) that lasts only for a few days in spring. Perhaps, it's the fleeting nature of these blooms that makes the Spring Blossom Festival so treasured in Japan. When the blossoms reach their peak sometime between mid-March and late April, the country is awash in a sublime pink hue. This magical backdrop becomes the perfect setting for cherry blossom parties that bring thousands teeming to parks for picnics and meals together.
Basant meaning ‘Spring’ in Sanskrit is synonymous with Basant Mela, the famed kite flying festival celebrated with gusto in Lahore - Pakistan’s cultural capital. Families huddle on rooftops, everyone’s attention fixed at the sky speckled with dueling kites. Yellow is the symbolic color of Basant, a nod to the sun kissed mustard flowers than blossom at this time of year in the Punjab province.
In Iceland, Easter is celebrated with the customary chocolate eggs, however these eggs or Paskaegg as they are called, are an institution of their own. They come in standard sizes with the largest being at least a foot high! Like a piñata, Paskaeggs are always hollow and each stuffed with candy and an Icelandic proverb known as málsháttur. Proverbs are drawn from Icelandic folklore, and everyone looks forward to reading their malshatt with the same excitement as opening a fortune cookie.
In India, Holi – the festival of colors marks the Spring Equinox and celebrates a Hindu legend that tells the victory of a good prince over an evil aunt who tried to plot his death. It’s also considered a festival of love, one that asks of forgiveness and to be rid of conflicts. Holi is a time of great camaraderie as the streets erupt in color, and everyone is fair game as revelers chase each other down with colored powder and water.
Nawruz meaning ‘New Day’ is a Persian spring festival, which dates backs 3000 years and is widely celebrated across the Middle East and Central Asia. Rooted in Zoroastrianism, Nowruz ceremonies are symbolic representations of two ancient concepts - the End and Rebirth. One of the most elaborate rituals of Nowruz is the preparation of the Haft Sin table, which includes seven traditional foods such as freshly grown sprouts to represent rebirth, and the placement of several symbolic elements like a mirror to represent the reflection of life.
Whichever traditions and rituals you follow this spring season, we hope it is one that reinforces a time of wonder, possibilities and personal growth.
Photo Credits (Top to Bottom): Jeffrey Friedl, AFP, Iran Review