12 Spring Celebrations Around the World
You’re not the only one who feels like celebrating once winter is officially over.
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Just when you’re wondering if winter might last forever, the frost begins to thaw. Spring, full of green shoots and colorful flowers, is on its way! In the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate the first day of spring on the vernal equinox. This year, it falls on March 20th. Cultures around the globe have different traditions for welcoming the new season, from festivals to parades. Read on for some very unique spring traditions, then dig into these interesting facts you never knew about the spring equinox.
India’s color-drenched spring festival
If you’ve ever seen photos of men and women dancing beneath clouds of colorful powder, you’ve probably seen pictures of Holi. This Indian spring festival, sometimes called “the festival of love,” takes place just before the turn of the seasons. It brings entire communities together for one giant party. A bonfire is lit before the festival, then the rest of the celebration is spent dancing and playing with water and colorful powders. It is an explosion of joy and color. If you need a little more color in your life, check out these photos of some of the most colorful towns in the world.
Old-fashioned traditions in Slovakia
Easter is always celebrated near the beginning of the spring season, and Slovak children take a decidedly active approach to this holiday’s festivities. School-age boys braid together willow branches (and sometimes ribbons) to make decorative “whips,” which they use to chase their sisters or female friends on Easter Monday. The boys often walk to their female friends’ houses with the willows and cups of water so that they can chase the girls they like, then splash them playfully. Tradition dictates that girls reward the boys with gifts of chocolate and painted eggs—but in modern times, this is only followed by families with a good sense of humor. This spring celebration is certainly outdated, but children across the country still participate each year. Visit Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, during springtime to enjoy one of the most affordable European capital cities.
The world’s biggest water fight in Thailand
Thailand’s national new year’s celebration occurs shortly after the spring equinox. Revelers all over the islands and cities celebrate by throwing water everywhere and on everyone. CNN has called it “the world’s biggest water fight.” Because it’s such great fun, the Songkran Water Festival has become a popular tourist attraction. Splashing around with friends and strangers, from resident Buddhist monks to first-time visitors, seems to bring out everyone’s inner child. Loud music and dance parties in the street are the cherry on top. Here are more fascinating international festivals you won’t want to miss.
Central Asia’s over-the-top, monthlong celebrations
On the first full day of spring, Central Asian communities around the world celebrate Nowruz. Though the festival is rooted in Iranian and Zoroastrian tradition, it has spread across several cultures over the last few centuries. It’s a massive celebration—as CNN says, “Think Christmas, New Year’s, and Fourth of July combined.” Nowruz means new day in Persian, and it is the kickoff to one full month of extravagant celebrations. If you attend a Nowruz celebration, don’t miss the beginning, when revelers jump over bonfires to signify the start of the festivities. Speaking of holidays with bonfires, this is how Halloween is celebrated all over the world.
Colorful bracelets in Bulgaria
Bulgarians acknowledge springtime before it even arrives. On March 1st, they exchange “Martenitsi” (singular: Martenitsa), red-and-white twined bracelets and decorations. Bulgarians wear the bracelets or pin the decorations to their clothes in anticipation of the change of season. Whenever people see the first stork in the sky or blossom on a fruit tree—usually around the first day of spring—they take off the Martenitsi and tie them to the blooming branch. As flowers unfurl and springtime begins, you can see red-and-white strings tied up in gardens and parks all across Bulgaria.
Ancient rituals in Teotihuacan, Mexico
Imagine thousands of people, all dressed alike, welcoming the season with their hands held high. Every year, tourists travel to the Teotihuacan Pyramid to do just that. Dressed all in white, they gather at the base, raise their arms to the sky, and welcome the sunshine and energy of springtime. Some even climb hundreds of steps to the top so that they can be a little closer to the sun. According to TripSavvy.com, this ritual is mimicked across several ancient sites in Mexico, though the Teotihuacan Pyramid is the most accessible to visitors coming from nearby Mexico City. For more springtime happenings, read about the history of Cinco de Mayo, another Mexican holiday.
The White House Easter Egg Roll
Though Easter occurs after the first day of spring, it doesn’t quite feel like spring in D.C. until the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This tradition dates back to 1878, according to the White House. That’s when a gaggle of brave schoolchildren walked right up to the White House lawn and asked to play egg-rolling games there. Fortunately for them, President Rutherford B. Hayes agreed. The egg-rolling competitions have since expanded into a full garden party, complete with cookie and egg decorating and strolling along the tulip-studded gardens. If you love White House trivia, you won’t want to miss these facts you never learned in history class about the President’s home.
Spring feasts in Uzbekistan
Uzbeks also celebrate Nowruz, but they put their own distinct spin on it. To celebrate spring and new growth, they prepare sumalak, a wheat-bran pudding meant to reinvigorate people’s bodies after the chill and stagnation of winter. According to Atlas Obscura, the long cooking process brings people together to celebrate friendship and community. Wheat is placed into water, where it eventually sprouts. Then it can be crushed to make a paste, which is mixed and cooked with other ingredients for hours. The final product is served warm with tea, which is savored by families and friends as they celebrate the beginning of a new season. Try making one of these 233 spring recipes while celebrating the season with your own loved ones.
Stonehenge and the spring equinox
Each year, pagans, druids, and assorted revelers from around the world gather at Stonehenge in England for the first day of spring. They meet for a sunrise ceremony at one of the most ancient sites in the world. Because pagans honor nature and the cycle of the seasons, the March gathering isn’t the only annual celebration at Stonehenge. Ceremonies are also held for the summer and winter solstices and the autumnal equinox. Participants often dress in pagan costumes—men in light-colored robes and women with flowers in their hair—for this simple celebration of the seasonal shift. Stonehenge is just one of the world’s most mysterious archaeological treasures.
Honoring the dead in Japan
The spring equinox is a national holiday in Japan, Shunbun No Hi. Workers enjoy a day of rest, and children stay home to celebrate with their families. HuffPost writer Sharon Schweitzer says, “Traditionally, Shunbun No Hi is preceded and precluded by the three days of Higan, the Buddhist celebration of ‘the other shore,’ in which families come together to honor ancestors who have crossed over to the next stages of life.” Families clean loved ones’ gravestones and leave behind offerings of rice dumplings. The first day of spring is an opportunity to honor the past while looking ahead to the future.
Scrambled eggs in Bosnia
At the beginning of spring, Bosnians in the town of Zenica celebrate Cimburijada, which literally means “the festival of scrambled eggs.” Residents of the city gather together around giant pots of breakfast food. They break bread—and eggs—together in the park and in picnic spots by the river. What could possibly be better than joining all your friends and family for breakfast on one of the first warm days of the year? It’s a simple, delicious welcome to spring.
Watching the sunrise at the perfect spot in Cambodia
Angkor Wat in Cambodia is known as one of the largest, most beautiful temples in the world. It is also nearly 1,000 years old. But did you know that it was built specifically to align with the spring equinox? According to Atlas Obscura, the 400-acre temple complex is built so that visitors standing on one specific southern causeway will see the sunrise directly over the temple’s central tower on the first day of spring. This creates a beautiful photo opportunity each year. Angkor Wat also happens to be one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites everyone needs to visit.
Tomb Sweeping Day in China
The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is meant to mark the change of the seasons while honoring ancestors. It will be held on April 4th this year, a few weeks after the first official day of spring. During this festival, Chinese families clean and decorate their ancestors’ tombs. Some people burn incense or light firecrackers at the graves, as well. But this holiday isn’t all about death and solemnity. Families also light beautiful lanterns at night and fly kites to enjoy the sunshine and crisp spring weather. To see how different cultures honor both life and death, check out these All Souls’ Day celebrations around the world.