Spring is an optimistic season of new beginnings and new life. With the return of warm sunshine, budding flowers and singing birds, it seems as if the earth itself wants to celebrate. And people the world over have found colorful and creative ways to do exactly that: celebrate spring.
From flower festivals to playful water fights, here are a handful of our favorite spring celebrations from around the world.
Holi – Northern India
Holi is a Hindu festival known as the festival of colors—and for good reason. The celebration involves throwing colored powders or colored water on anyone and everyone, until the festival attendees look like human tie-dyes or walking rainbows. It is all in good fun, as Holi celebrates the beginning of spring (a season of bright colors) and emphasizes renewing old friendships.
Though Holi has its roots in India and Nepal, it is now celebrated in many parts of the world and has inspired other colorful events, such as The Color Run.
Songkran – Chiang Mai, Thailand
If Holi sounds a bit messy, Songkran offers a chance to clean up. Instead of throwing colored powder and dyes, the Songkran festival is basically a city-wide water fight. Any way of throwing water is allowed: buckets, water guns, fire trucks or even elephants douse passers-by.
Songkran marks the traditional Thai New Year, which occurs in mid-April. The water tradition is related to spring cleaning and the fresh start of a new year, with the water originally used to cleanse Buddha statues and then poured on family members for good luck. This evolved into the fun free-for-all enjoyed today.
Image: Denis De Mesmaeker
Sechseläuten – Zurich, Switzerland
Some people really love spring; others are just happy the long winter is over.
Such is the case in Zurich, where the residents celebrate by burning a giant snowman (made from cloth, and stuffed with fireworks) called the “Böögg.” Besides representing the end of winter, the Böögg serves as a type of Groundhog Day: the faster it burns, the warmer and sunnier the summer is supposed to be.
It’s not all about the bonfire, though; the two-day event also includes parades, banquets and humorous speeches.
Tulip Time – Holland, Michigan
Tulip festivals are held each spring in multiple cities around the world. One of the largest is in Holland—not the region in Europe, but the small town of Holland, Michigan.
Tulip Time is held in early May each year, and boasts over six million tulips and one million visitors. That works out to roughly 30 visitors and 180 tulips per Holland resident. It is one of the largest, and has been ranked as the best, small-town festival in America.
Hanami – Japan
Besides tulips, cherry blossom festivals are also a popular rite of spring. In Japan, such celebrations are known as “Hanami.” Hanami is a relaxed time of picnicking or having outdoor parties beneath the blooming cherry trees. Since trees in different areas bloom at different times, weather forecasts include a “cherry blossom front” showing where they are currently blooming.
In the U.S., the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. commemorates the Japanese gift of cherry trees to the city on March 27, 1912.
Semana Santa – Antigua, Guatemala
Easter week, or “Semana Santa” in Spanish, is celebrated each spring in many different ways. In the Guatemalan town of Antigua, that includes elaborate parades with ornamental costumes and floats. The huge, wooden floats are carried by hand—lots of hands, as they can weigh thousands of pounds each.
The cobblestone parade routes are covered with gorgeous carpets made from flowers and other plant materials. The handmade carpets take many hours to create, but can only be used once: they are trampled by the hundreds of float carriers as the parade passes.
This spring, join in the fun! Add these spring celebrations to your bucket list, or just find and frequent the local festivals near your home. It’s a great way to shake off the winter doldrums and enjoy each year to the fullest.