Springtime is the season of colour and life returning to nature which is most certainly a reason to celebrate! Spring marks the end of the dreary wintry cold months and the arrival of warm sunny days. This has been a reason for celebration for centuries around the world. Either through religious or cultural influence spring has always played an important part of festivals. These festivals are generally very colourful and vivid to symbolize life in contrast to the white snow or barren plants that represent death. As spring approaches, The Sherp picks out the most wonderful springtime festivals from around the world. Songkran Water Festival, Thailand (Courtesy : teachingtravel.com) Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Year. The annual water fight held on this day, is considered a way to wash away bad luck and invite good luck into the current year. Songkran is celebrated for three days starting April 13 to April 15, though in other parts of the country, this event is celebrated in the entire week. During the celebration, the streets of Bangkok become impassable without getting soaked by water from buckets and water cannons of the participants. More than just fun, the festival is also about worshiping Buddha for good karma in the present year by washing Buddha images, visiting temples and cleaning houses. The Bloom Of Cherry Blossoms, Japan (Courtesy : 15min.lt) Gorgeous flowers are the main attraction of the festivals, but a variety of traditional Japanese performing arts are also presented at various locations around Japan. Festival vendors sell various food and souvenirs including regional crafts and speciality food. People celebrate by participating in a custom known as Hanami all over Japan in spring. Hanami literally means viewing flowers and the origin dates back to more than one thousand years ago when aristocrats enjoyed looking at beautiful cherry blossoms and wrote poems. Nowadays, people have a sort of picnic under the trees and bring home-cooked meals, do BBQ, or buy take-out food. Las Fallas, Spain (Courtesy : autoradio.ge) Las Fallas literally means “the fires” in Valencian. The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of Ninots (“puppets” or “dolls”), which are huge cardboard, wood, paper-machè and plaster statues. The ninots are extremely lifelike and usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events. A popular theme is poking fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities. Many ninots are several stories tall and need to be moved with the aid of cranes on the day of la plantà (the rising). The ninots remain in place until March 19th, the day known as La Cremá (the burning). Starting in the early evening, young men with axes chop cleverly-hidden holes in the statues and stuff them with fireworks. The crowds start to chant, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire at exactly 12 a.m. (midnight). Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. This ninot is called the ninot indultat (the pardoned puppet) and is exhibited in the local Museum of the Ninot along with the other favorites from years past. Holi, India (Courtesy : waterandmegacities.org) One of the major festivals of India, Holi is celebrated with enthusiasm and gaiety on the full moon day in the month of March. Heaps of various hues of coloured powder, water guns and sprays, water balloons etc are sold on the roadside. Holi marks the arrival of spring, the season of hope and joy and the departing of the gloom of winter. Nature too, it seems, rejoices at the arrival of Holi and wears its best clothes. Fields get filled with crops promising a good harvest to the farmers and flowers bloom colouring the surroundings and spreading fragrance into the air. At night in a special ceremony a huge bonfire is burnt while people surround it and chant sacred incantations. Cimburijada (Festival Of Scrambled Eggs), Bosnia (Courtesy : static.klix.ba) Every 21st March at dawn, thousands of Zenica citizens gathers at Kamberovića field (recreational complex by the river) to celebrate the first day of spring. The celebration begins by preparing a traditional breakfast in the open – Cimbur (a dish of eggs). Many Zenica residents even set up their tents the night before, so that they don’t miss the sunrise. The bravest among them inaugurate the swimming season in the river of Bosnia. The rest of the day is reminiscent of a huge barbecue party for the whole city, which lasts until late at night. March 21 also starts the one-month cultural festival Zenica Spring. Walpurgis Night, Sweden (Courtesy : Wikipedia) Walpurgis Night is a traditional holiday celebrated on April 30 in northern Europe and Scandinavia. In Sweden typical holiday activities include the singing of traditional spring folk songs and the lighting of bonfires. In Germany the holiday is celebrated by dressing in costumes, playing pranks on people, and creating loud noises meant to keep evil at bay. Many people also hang blessed sprigs of foliage from houses and barns to ward off evil spirits, or they leave pieces of bread spread with butter and honey, called ankenschnitt, as offerings for phantom hounds. Nowruz, Iran (Courtesy : newsdesk.si.edu) Of all the Persian national festivals, the New Year celebrations are at once the most important and the most colorful. This festival embodies a wealth of ancient rites and customs, and is about the only one in Persia which is not confined to the traditions of one particular religious group. It symbolizes that continuity of the ancient Persian culture which has survived so many adversities and vicissitudes. In harmony with the rebirth of nature, Nowruz always begins on the first day of spring marked by the vernal equinox, or Tahvil. As far back as records go, Nowruz has been, either in fact or by intention, a celebration of early spring, when the sun begins to regain strength and overcome winter’s cold and darkness and when there is a renewal of growth and vigor in nature. Tulip Festival, Canada (Courtesy : puffoflife.com) In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year. In the years following Queen Juliana’s original donation, Ottawa became famous for its tulips and in 1953 the Ottawa Board of Trade and photographer Malak Karsh organized the first Canadian Tulip Festival. Queen Juliana returned to celebrate the festival in 1967, and Princess Margriet returned in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival. Baba Marta, Bulgaria (Courtesy : inliberta.it) Bulgarians celebrate on March 1 a centuries-old tradition and exchange Martenitsi on what is called the day of Baba Marta. Martenitsi are red and white coloured bands or figurines that symbolise health and happiness, a lucky charm against evil spirits. They are given away to friends and family and are worn around the wrist or on clothes. They are also used to decorate houses, barren trees etc. Hola Mohalla (Courtesy : Tumblr) Hola Mohalla is a Sikh festival that takes place on the first of the lunar month of Chet which usually falls in March. This, by a tradition established by Guru Gobind Singh, follows the Hindu festival of Holi by one day; Hola is the masculine form of the feminine sounding Holi. The word Mohalla is derived from the Arabic root hal (alighting, descending) and is a Punjabi word that implies an organized procession in the form of an army column. Together the words Hola Mohalla stands for “mock fight”. During this festival, processions are organised in the form of army type columns accompanied by war-drums and standard-bearers and proceeding to a given spot or moving in state from one gurudwara to another. The custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh who held the first such mock fight event at Anandpur in February 1701.