In the United States, the arrival of spring is often marked by the lively green parades of St. Patrick's Day followed by the chocolate bunnies and marshmallow treats of Easter. People all over the world celebrate the transition from winter to spring in different ways. Here are four spring festivals worth experiencing in person at least once.
Spring Festivals Around the World
Songkran in Thailand
If you find yourself in Thailand in mid-April, prepare for the onslaught of water wars you’ll inevitably encounter. The three-day Songkran Festival is tied to the Thai New Year and is one of the most popular celebrations in the country. Traditionally, Thais use this time to clean and reflect, and pay respect to neighbors, family and the elderly. Youth pour scented water over the hands of their elders for luck and prosperity. People bring food to the monks and bathe Buddha statues in water, and out on the streets, Thais of all ages engage in an intense water war with each other and tourists alike.
Holi Festival in India
The day after the first full moon of March marks the start of Holi, a Hindu festival with many legends behind it. On the eve of the festival, people light bonfires to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Ash from the bonfire is considered sacred with many applying the ashes to their foreheads as further protection from evil. On Holi, stores and businesses shut down. Friends, neighbors and strangers pour into the streets in a collective euphoria to celebrate the end of winter by throwing colored water and powder on each other.
Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Every spring, the Japanese gather with friends for picnics under the cherry blossom trees for one of the country’s most cherished traditions. To the Japanese, the cherry blossoms' sudden arrival, combined with their tremendous beauty and fleeting nature, symbolizes the transitional nature of life. When the cherry blossoms, or sakura, arrive, the Japanese celebrate by heading outside for picnics and parties under the plentiful trees (hanami). Gatherings are full of food, from Japanese junk food to barbeque to pickled cherry blossom leaves.
Las Fallas in Spain
Las Fallas, a traditional celebration honoring St. Joseph, centers around giant paper mache puppets (fallas) made of a combination of paper, wood and wax. Las Fallas officially begins March 1 with a deafening firework show (mascletà) at 2 p.m., and continues every day at 2 p.m. through March 19. In the days leading up to the celebration, the streets are filled with revelry: music, decorations, firecrackers, parades with residents in traditional costumes and the intoxicating aroma of paella cooking in every restaurant. On the final day, a massive bonfire is built, the fireworks shows reach a crescendo and all the fallas are set alight in grand blazes of glory.