In the States, the arrival of spring is marked by the lively green parades of St. Patty’s Day followed by the chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps of Easter. While we no doubt welcome spring, and all its green and sugar-packed bounty, we can’t help but look to the rest of the world to see how they celebrate this glorious change in seasons.
Spring Festivals Around the World
Celebrate the arrival of the season with these four intriguing cultural events.
Songkran Festival, Thailand (photo credit: Pop Araks/Shutterstock.com)
Songkran Festival // 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. Thais bring food to the monks and bathe Buddha statues in water.
But on the streets, Thais engage in an intense water war with each other and tourists alike. During Songkran, kids and adults ride around on backs of trucks and motorcycles armed with water balloons and Super Soakers. Barrels of water line the streets in front of storefronts. The festival’s timing aligns with the hot season, so think of it as an easy way to stay cool for three days. You can’t escape the water wars, so grab a water gun and stake out your position.
Holi Festival, India (photo credit: Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock.com)
Holi Festival // India
You can immediately recognize the Holi Festival in photos: grinning people soaked and covered in vivid colors, a state of exuberance captured in time. As with most spring festivals, Holi celebrates the end of winter’s gloomy days. The day after the first full moon of March marks the start of Holi. As a Hindu festival, it has 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.
The day of Holi, stores and businesses shut down, and friends, neighbors and strangers come together in a collective euphoria. Indians old and young celebrate by throwing colored water and powder on each other. And as no Indian celebration is complete without food, decadent sweets and treats are plentiful. The Holi festival is not the time for fancy holiday outfits. Instead, wear old clothes, as you will get doused in color. Holi color is sold everywhere on the streets, so join in, make some new friends and embrace the chaos.
Cherry blossom festival, Tokyo, Japan
Cherry Blossoms // 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. Weather is forever finicky, so cherry blossom season reaches regions in Japan at different times. Predicting the arrival of cherry blossom season is a national affair — there’s even an app for it.
But 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! And of course, each picnic includes plenty to drink, traditional sake included. Since it’s rare for the Japanese to miss hanami, everyone shares space under the trees. Should you run out of an ingredient, your picnic neighbors will often share.
Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain
Las Fallas // Spain
If your favorite part of the Fourth of July is the fireworks, Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain, is your kind of spring festival. Las Fallas, a traditional celebration honoring St. Joseph, centers around giant paper mache puppets (fallas) made of a combination of paper, wood and wax. Each neighborhood spends months creating towering structures some of which cost more than tens of thousands of dollars. Fallas, which often satirize politics and social customs, are on display around the city with each neighborhood taking great pride in their work.
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.
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