Spring Customs Around the World
As spring reaches those of us in the Northern hemisphere, the world is beginning anew. The spring rains are bringing forth new growth all around us, and the temperature is finally creeping warmer virtually every day. Itís no wonder, then, that Spring is considered to be a prime time for celebration throughout the world.
This time of year brings the Chinese celebration of Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese Lunar New Year. Chinese people often put up long rolls of red paper with black writing and pictures of fierce-looking creatures on either side of their front door. The red paper rolls usually contain lines of poetry transcribed by a calligrapher and the Gods Shen Tu and Yu Lei, who are believed to protect people from devils and evil spirits
The spring Pakistani festival of Basant is held in the ancient eastern city of Lahore. This festival is marked by a litany of kite-flying, rooftop soirees, garden parties and equestrian events. Locals and tourists alike don glamorous clothes, in the yellow and green of spring flowers blooming citywide, to bid farewell to the frosts and fogs of winter and usher in spring.
The Vernal Equinox is considered one of the most important days of spring, as it marks the first day of spring when day and night are each approximately 12 hours in length. However, as the month of April draws to a close and winter is falling further and further away, the joy of May Day (May 1st) is celebrated in many different ways.
In Germany, the celebration of Walpurgisnacht on April 30th and May 1st celebrates the release of winterís hold on the land and the oncoming joy of summer. Children celebrate in a similar fashion to Halloween, playing pranks on unsuspecting victims as midnight draws near. Many people hold witchesí fires to ward off the evil spirits of winter. And on May 1st, it is believed that the earth spirits like sprites and fairies emerge to bring the land safely to summer. People celebrate with great feasts of food and drink as the look forward to the coming of summer.
During the times of ancient Rome, spring was fÍted with the Feast of Floralia. This celebration marked the flowering of the grains and the bounty of the animals as spring continued. Itís actually believed that the egg became an important symbol during this time period, as it noted both the egg that brought forth life and the egg that nourished people. As this festival evolved, people began creating eggs out of many materials, including chocolate, as gifts for their loved ones. Young matrons carried these eggs with them in baskets throughout the Spring, trying to determine the possible gender of a future child.
In the British Isles, many people celebrate the Festival of Beltane on May Day. Lighting fires was customary at this time, and traditionally a Beltane fire (very similar to the witchesí fires of Germany) was composed of the nine sacred woods of the Celts. When daylight comes, people celebrate by dancing and singing around a maypole tied with colorful streamers or ribbons.
May Day never was celebrated as much in the United States as it is in Great Britain because of the Puritansí discouragement of the day as a pagan holiday. However, many American communities still celebrate this time with May queens and the hanging of May baskets filled with flowers and chocolates on the doorknobs of friends and family.
One spring ritual that always graces the news in the United States is the blooming of the cherry trees in Washington D.C. These beautiful trees that line the Tidal Basin in the capital of the United States were a gift from Japan over 100 years ago and bloom every spring and bring with them a site that every American should see at least once, a sweet smell to the air that not even modern pollution can dim, and a warmth of the knowledge that spring has indeed arrived. The blooming of these trees is always eagerly awaited by both locals and tourists alike, and the few benches along the route are often taken in the wee hours of the morning by sightseers waking up with a bit of coffee or hot chocolate from a vending cart.
About the Author: Jane S. Roseen is the Owner and President of Harmony Sweets, an international gourmet chocolate shop. Harmony Sweets' mission focuses on individual consumers purchasing gourmet chocolates from around the world for their friends and relatives, as well as corporate gift giving. Gourmet chocolate gift baskets and personalized chocolates are also available.