✦ Spring around the World
Ask many people what their favourite season is and you’ll no doubt get a mixed bag of responses.
Some will opt for the warmth of the summer months, some veer towards the colder crisper times of winter.
Of course, it depends on where you live. Northern hemisphere seasons can offer up brutal winters contrasting with overbearing summers. Weather patterns in the southern reaches of the world have also become erratic of late as the impact of climate change becomes evidently apparent.
For many, however, spring is a firm favourite - the transition from winter to summer, almost a compromise of sorts. It is typically a time for rebirth and renewal, when the heavy winter clothes are ditched as temperatures increase and we glance towards warm-weather activities. Flowers bloom, baby animals are born, and people around the world celebrate the new season through a wide and varied range of festivals and traditions.
Arguably for those in Australia this year the onset of spring is even more eagerly anticipated than usual due to the gloomy months of lockdown brought upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To welcome spring this year, Brilliant-Online takes a look at how the season is celebrated and ushered in via some of the more unusual customs and traditions across various countries around the world.
Many thanks to Richard Shaw for his macro photos on insect life.
Photo Credit: Richard Shaw, richscapephotography.com
Explosion of joy and colour
India is renowned for its vibrant celebration of life through sounds, smells and colours and the Indian spring festival of love known as Holi has this in abundance. Communities all across the country convene to engage in giant parties with bonfires, music, food, dancing and merriment all under clouds of colourful powders that they mix with water and cover themselves with. It truly is an explosion of joy and colour to welcome in the new season!
It is very similar in Thailand during the Songkran festival, the country’s new year celebration that occurs shortly after the spring equinox. A week long celebration involves lots of eating, drinking, loud music, and firecrackers! It also signifies the end of the blisteringly hot weather and water is a key component. It is almost impossible to venture outdoors anywhere in the country during this time without getting wet and covered in coloured powders. It brings everyone together from local communities, to tourists, to resident Buddhist monks – it is absolutely a time to be happy and let loose!
A smashing time!
If one place tends to be universally linked to spring it is Japan. The season sees the blooming of cherry blossom trees that provide such a beautiful, colourful backdrop to some of the most populous and developed cities in the world, such as Tokyo and Osaka. In fact, the season has made Japan one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet from late March to early May as people flock to witness the splendour of nature for themselves and residents host parties under the trees, a tradition that has taken place for centuries.
The Netherlands is famous for its tulip flowers and no time is this best demonstrated than during the Flower Parade of Bollenstreek. Huge elaborate floats made up of tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils parade through several villages en route from Noordwijk to Haarlem to welcome in the spring season.
Things get a little louder in Greece where residents welcome spring by throwing clay pots full of water out their windows, resulting in a thunderous cacophony of shattering crockery! The custom is believed to ward off bad spirits, with people often taking home shards of the pots as good luck charms.
Here comes the sun
In Mexico revellers travel to the Teotihuacan Pyramid for a ceremony where they all adorn white robes, gather at the base of the structure and raise their arms to the sky to welcome the new season with all its sunshine and energy. Some even climb the pyramid in an effort to get even closer to the sun!
Many Central Asia countries welcome the first full day of spring with Nowruz, meaning “new day” in Persian, which signifies a month-long festival of extravagant celebrations. “Think Christmas, New Year’s, and Fourth of July combined,” says CNN.
The egg is arguably the most symbolic sign relating to Easter due to its biblical connotations of rebirth and new life. Confectionery Easter eggs have been a huge hit with children and adults for as long as we care to remember in certain parts of the world with the chocolate Easter Bilby especially popular in Australia.
Roll with it
In the USA the annual White House Easter Egg Roll has become widely recognised as the official welcoming of spring. The tradition dates back to 1878 when President Rutherford B. Hayes allowed a group of local schoolchildren to partake in the game of egg-rolling on the White House lawn. Over the years things have progressed and there are now full garden parties complete with fun and games with the President and First Lady often in attendance.
In the town of Zenica in Bosnia the significance of the egg is no different, even if its consumption is! There they celebrate spring’s arrival with “Cimburijada”, or the Festival of Scrambled Eggs. The cooking begins at dawn on the first day of spring and enough scrambled eggs are made to serve entire villages, with crowds gathered in the streets with pots and pans awaiting their free serving!
Symbolism is also an important part of spring festivals in Switzerland. Blanketed in snow for much of the bitter winter, the country welcomes spring by building a snowman which is subsequently burned. The quicker the fire reaches the head of the snowman is an indication that more favourable summer weather is on its way!
There is a similar tradition in Poland called the drowning of the Marzanna, which dates back to the 16th century. A doll, usually made of straw and symbolising the cold winter weather, is paraded in front of crowds through the streets before being tossed into the local river to represent the passing of winter and the welcome of spring.
Last but not least we travel to Lanark in central Scotland for a tradition so old no one can recall how, when or why it started! Whuppity Scoorie sees local children running around wielding sticks adorned with balls of crumpled paper near dusk on the first of March each year. They run around the town’s bell until it rings at 6pm following six months of silence during the desolate winter days. It is a mysterious custom that locals believe originated to rid evil spirits before spring arrived.
There are many other customs in many other countries welcoming in the spring season that have been practised for generations. One thing is clear – wherever you celebrate the onset of spring, immerse yourself in the local culture and customs and, above all else, enjoy!
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