January 1st may be the beginning of the new year, but our getting rid of the old to make room for the fresh, shiny, bright, blooming new isn’t called “New Year Cleaning” but “Spring Cleaning.” That’s when we pull ourselves out of the wintery doldrums, shake off the cold and weight of the year before, and really get down to celebrating the “new” of the year. Birds chirping, bees buzzing, baby animals, spring vegetables, flowers pushing through, and the leaves returning to the trees. Yeah, it’s kind of dreamy.
All around the world, the wonder of spring is celebrated and enjoyed. The Chinese New Year is really the Spring Festival with all of its wonderful traditions and welcoming the beginning of the new season. While this is perhaps one of the most well-known of the seasonal celebrations, here are seven more ways the world says, “Hello!” to this time of year that you may enjoy.
Songkran Water Festival
Water, water everywhere, and even some to drink! Thailand celebrates their New Year’s Day a little after the spring equinox with this incredibly fun and refreshing festival. Songkran is based on a Sanskrit word for “astrological passage,” and some of the activities include visiting one’s elders, going to one of the many Buddhist monasteries in the country, and throwing water on each other. Super Soakers are encouraged as are water balloons, garden hoses, and the random painted elephant ready to douse you with a full trunk.
Also known as “Festival of Colors,” “Festival of Love,” and “Festival of Spring,” Holi is one of the most joyous and colorful expressions of spring. This beautiful Hindu celebration originated in Nepal and India but has spread throughout Asia and the Western world. It not only marks the start of spring but the divine love between Radha and Krishna, and the triumph of good over evil. It is a day to forgive and forget, mend relationships, and meet up with others to laugh, play, and just love. Any and everyone throws colored powder at each other as a way of bonding and highlighting the many colors of the season. All are fair game and you can get hit with a vibrant hue anywhere in town during the festivities.
Welcome to the Persian New Year, annually celebrated on the first day of spring. In Iran itself, this lasts for 13 days of rituals and festivities, with family members going outside on the last day to enjoy nature, picnic outdoors, and spend time together in the open air. Throughout the festivities of the New Year, people jump over bonfires, light firecrackers, and play pranks and jokes on each other. This is also a time for serious spring cleaning, shopping for new clothes, and visiting family and friends.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
Cheeseheads, unite! This centuries-old tradition takes place on the UK’s Spring Bank Holiday in Gloucester, England. The Master of Ceremonies stands at the top of Cooper’s Hill and tosses out buns, cookies, and sweets as part of a fertility rite to encourage the “fruits of harvest” then sends a 7-9 pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese rolling down for contestants to chase. Originally attended only by the locals at the nearby village of Brockworth, the event has become wildly popular around the world, and people from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and beyond show up to make a grab for the gooey, melty prize.
Cimburijada (or Festival of Scrambled Eggs)
Eggs obviously are synonymous with the beginning of spring thanks to their fertility symbolism, right? Well, over in Zenica, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, locals gather by the Bosna River at dawn to celebrate the first day of spring with a massive scrambled egg breakfast — hence the name of the festival. And this is no “made to order, individual plates of eggs” deal. Oh, no. Giant pans of oeufs are prepared for EVERYBODY — with spices, vegetables, and all sorts of yummy additions — and all who attend eat, dance, listen to music, and hang out with friends and family to welcome spring. Sort of a foodie dream come true.
A blend of fire, fireworks, whimsical characters, and celebration is Spain’s Las Fallas. The festival was begun due to the old carpenters’ tradition of burning the pieces of wood they used to prop up their lights during the winter and creating huge bonfires in the process. As time went on, they added old rags and belongings to the wood, fashioning what are now known as ninots — elaborate, whimsical and often ironically humorous paper-machê and cardboard figures that are displayed from 1-19 March. Music is played, gunpowder exploded, food shared, fireworks set off, and basically a feeling of joy at the start of spring felt through the streets at every turn. On the evening of 15 March, workers are in a frenzy to finish their ninots to be judged the morning of the 16th. It is then that only one is chosen to remain on display while all the others — upwards of 750 — are burned in a giant, beautiful fire on the last night, the 19th.
White House Easter Egg Roll
No, it’s not a special holiday wonton wrapper filled with spring ingredients then deep fried — although that sounds pretty delicious. This is the tradition begun in 1878 by President Rutherford B. Hayes when he opened up the White House grounds on Easter Monday to any child who wanted to come on over and, yep, roll their Easter egg. It became a yearly event when President Grover Cleveland agreed to an audience with some children on Easter Monday in 1885, and he was charmed and delighted by the egg rolling kids. Since then, it has been held on the White House lawn every year except one, and the event has become so popular, tickets to attend are now made available online. Now, why egg rolling? It symbolizes Christ rolling the stone away from the tomb.
Say hello to spring
Sure, we’re a month into the season but you can still indulge in a little celebration of the newness of this time of year. Winter is gone or certainly leaving, and it feels like a good time to embrace some springtime magic and enjoy.