A view into some of the many spring traditions from around the world and how they share a theme of rebirth, revival and new beginnings.
Written by Halle Elder
Spring is arguably the most celebrated season of the year. Saying goodbye to the dark, cold winter days rejuvenates and motivates people to keep moving forward. From activities like spring cleaning, to celebrating with exuberant festivals, the entire world maintains traditions to ring in spring. Within these bountiful traditions, many share the common theme of rebirth, revival and new beginnings. Hopefully you will learn about some new traditions, and see the similarities that they share with your own.
Celebrated each year on the spring equinox (March 21), Nowruz — also known as Persian New Year — is a celebration and tradition of springtime. Nowruz translates from Persian to mean “new day” and in this, it is a celebration of new beginnings. The origins of this celebration come from the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism, but it is widely celebrated in areas of Persian descent, primarily surrounding Iran. This long-standing celebration has been celebrated for well over 3,000 years, likely first being celebrated in ancient Persia. Today, Nowruz has been awarded and added to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity through UNESCO. This is in part because it is so widely celebrated by people across the globe, but also because it promotes peace and solidarity. The traditions surrounding this celebration push for generations, families, neighbors and friends to reconnect — and, for those who need it, attempt to reconcile. This tradition celebrates spring, accepting this day as spring's victory over darkness. In this tradition, you can see how the theme of rebirth and revival is found.
Holi is a celebration of spring celebrated on Purnima (Full Moon Day) on the Hindu calendar on the Monday of Phalguna, which is mid-March on the Gregorian calendar. This celebration originated as a holy day of Hinduism on the subcontinent of India, but today, celebrations of this festival take place all over the world. Otherwise known as The Festival of Colors, The Festival of Spring, or the Festival of Love, this is a celebration not only of a transition into a new season, but a celebration of love and renewal. This festival takes place over one night and one day. The night before the celebration, people gather at bonfires to sing, dance and be together, which is meant to symbolize the triumph of good over evil. This day in the Hindu faith celebrates the divine, eternal love of the gods Radha and Krishna. Because of this, the festival is meant to remind everyone to spread love and appreciate the love that everyone has. On the day of Holi, people head to the streets to douse everyone and anyone around in vibrant colors, each representing their own blessing, though the color symbolism changes from place to place. This shared activity is meant to remind people to forgive all resentments towards one another and celebrate the coming of better times.
Sham el Nessim
Easter Monday each year marks the national festival of Egypt, Sham el Nessim. Sham el Nessim translates to English to mean “smell of the breeze.” Those who celebrate the holiday do so by in fact, smelling the breeze, by joining together to picnic in open green spaces. This tradition comes from wanting to celebrate the return of warmth and sunny days. The origins of this celebration come from the ancient Egyptian festival of Shemu. Shemu was the festival of harvest and ancient Egyptian citizens would provide offerings of traditional foods to their gods to bless them with good harvests. After the Christianization of Egypt, these traditions became associated with Easter and are now nationally recognized on Easter Monday. However, the old traditions did not entirely die out, and often the same traditional food that was offered to the gods long ago is shared among family at these picnics. Another tradition from this celebration is coloring boiled eggs and then giving them to others. Some people even write wishes on the eggs they give away and hope for them to come true. This celebration of the coming of spring shares the same connection to revival and new beginnings as many spring traditions around the world.
On the first of March in Bulgaria, friends, families and loved ones give one another decorated red- and white-stringed bracelets. The ancient tradition comes from the belief that these strings are a symbol of asking for mercy from Baba Marta, a grumpy old lady from myth whose violent mood swings affect the weather. Her mood swings are said to be the reason the weather in March is so unsteady. People believe that wearing these bracelets keeps Baba Marta under control, prompting spring to come early and winter to leave fast. Making these bracelets is a ritual. It is important that they are made with good intentions and always gifted from a loved one to another, and never bought or made for oneself. After March is over, everyone removes their bracelets and ties them to blooming fruit trees to promote fertility and renewal. This tradition brings people together to celebrate the coming spring with hope for better weather and better days.
Songkran is a festival celebrated in Thailand each year on April 13, although it is often celebrated from the 12 until the 15 as people travel home to celebrate with their loved ones. The name Songkran translates to "astrological passage" which is meant to represent transformation or change. People prepare for this festival by cleaning their homes, schools, offices and various public spaces. They also often attend Buddhist temples early on April 13, bringing offerings of food and listening to the monks preach. Water is a central aspect of this festival, part of several traditions that occur on Songkran. At these Buddhist temples, visitors sprinkle water over the heads of Buddha statues, which is said to bring good fortune and purification of the soul. Young members of these communities also sometimes pour water over the hands of their elders to ask for blessings and show respect. However, the most famous aspect of this festival is the community water fights that take place. These water fights are seen as an act of ritual cleansing: the water is said to wash away the previous year so people can have a new beginning going forward.
These are just a few of the many intricate and unique celebrations of spring from around the world. Each has its own identity and origins, but they all share one common theme; that spring is a time of rebirth, revival, and new beginnings. It is no surprise that these ideas are associated with spring as the world wakes up, flowers bloom and nature comes to life. Humanity as a whole recognized these new beginnings and has collectively decided that this is a time of year that should be celebrated. How will you celebrate spring?