No matter where you go, each culture has its own special way of celebrating the start of spring. In honor of the season, here is a list of 7 traditional spring festivals from around the world. Enjoy!
Holi, India & Nepal
Holi is a Hindu celebration also known as “The Festival of Colors.” It’s usually celebrated in February or March, and is tied to several ancient Hindu stories. In one myth, Prahlada, a devotee of Vishnu, is saved from poisoning, venomous snakes, elephant-trampling and fire through his prayers. (You can read more about it here!)
During the festival itself, revelers light bonfires and cover each other in scented, colored powders. While the festival is mainly celebrated in India and Nepal, you can also find Holi celebrations anywhere with a large Hindu population.
Photo credit: Diganta Talukdar
Las Fallas, Spain
Held every year in mid-March, this festival in Valencia, Spain is a little different from most seasonal celebrations. It centers around the construction of elaborate figures made of papier mache, wood, and wax, often caricaturing Spanish social and political figures (called “Fallas”). Over the four days of the festival, the city is treated to live music, parties and fireworks as the Fallas are displayed to the public. On the final day of the festival, each of the Fallas are burned in a bonfire.
Photo credit: Keith Ellwood
Nowruz, Middle East & Asia
Nowruz is the Persian New Year, originating in what is now Iran. In the modern day it has spread, and is celebrated throughout the Middle East and Asia. This secular holiday has its roots in the Zoroastrian tradition and coincides with the spring equinox each year. There are multiple myths used to explain the origins of the holiday — usually involving the day the world was created or saved from a harsh winter.
Like most other holidays, Nowruz is a time for family and friends to gather and spend time together. The most important part of the celebration is the setting of the haft-seen table, which involves setting a table with symbolic items that represent health, fertility, love and the renewal of nature.
Photo credit: Hamed Saber
Songkran Water Festival, Thailand
Songkran is the celebration of the traditional Thai New Year in mid-April. It’s celebrated throughout the country and in neighboring regions. The most famous Songkran festival is held in the city of Chiang Mai. While the holiday has traditionally been a time to honor friends and family and honor the Buddha, there’s one twist that makes this holiday a little different from others. The Thai people celebrate by soaking each other with water! In some cities, it effectively turns into a five-day watergun battle in the streets.
Photo credit: Wyndham Hollis
Walpurgis Night, Central and Northern Europe
Named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga, this May Day celebration is timed exactly 6 months before Halloween. While the celebration involves some traditional springtime activities like picnic lunches, bonfires and carnivals, it’s also known as a day when witches gather to await the arrival of spring. In the Czech Republic, a rag and straw “witch” or a straw broom is burned in effigy, but in Estonia, people actually dress up as witches to celebrate.
Photo credit: Jock Rutherford
Cheese-rolling, Gloucestershire, England
No one is exactly sure how or why it became a tradition to chase a wheel of cheese down Cooper’s Hill each May. Some speculate this celebration has its roots in Pagan traditions of rolling objects down the hill as part of a fertility rite. What we do know is that cheese has been rolled down the hill since the 15th century, and that groups of men, women and children compete to catch it (or at least be the first to cross the finish line).
Cooper’s Hill is steep and uneven, so this tradition does have its share of injuries, including sprained angles, broken bones and even concussions. Check out the video above to see last year’s race in action.