Spring is in the Air
Nemo, where are you?
I hear you calling me now:
Spring is back again.
Spring is that most elusive and transitional of seasons—it is seen as a time of growth, of renewal, of hope, and of new life being born. The term is also used as a metaphor for the start of better times, as in the "Prague Spring". No sooner have you recovered from the dulling drug of Winter that you realise that Spring is half-way through. Many a time have I regretted this fact.
I now adopt a determined policy of spring-stalking. It works like this: no sooner is my birthday over—yes, I am an Aquarian—that I am hard at work organizing an anticipatory Springfest. Let me take you for a quick tour through varied cultures as they rejoice in Spring.
Akitu was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia associated with the cutting of the barley in spring, in the month of Nisannu, known to us as Aries. We all know how fond the Babylonians—past and present—are of beer, and what is beer but their own glorification of barley? Their rites celebrate the victory of Marduk over Tiamat.
The first day of spring is the beginning of the new year, Nowruz, in the Iranian calendar, which means "New Day" in the Persian language, and marks an important traditional holiday festival celebrated in Iran as well as in many countries with a significant Persian population and cultural links.
The first day of May is the date of many public holidays: in many countries, "May Day" is synonymous with International Workers' Day, or Labor Day. As a day of celebration the holiday has ancient origins, and relates to traditions that have survived into modern times. Many of these customs are due to May Day being a cross-quarter day, since it falls halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Celtic tradition considers this the end of Spring and the beginning of Summer. In line with this, Ireland celebrates St Brigid's Day on February 1st as the first day of Spring.
Easter is the most important religious feast in the Christian calendar. Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the "third day", and celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday. The date of Easter varies between March 22nd and April 25th in the Western tradition, and between April 4th and May 8th in Eastern Christianity.
Holi, the festival of colors, celebrated at the end of the winter season, is the most vibrant festival of colours celebrated by Hindus in India. People throw water and colored powders on each other, and a jolly and uprarious time is had by all.
Vasant Panchami, the first day of Spring, is celebrated in North India on the fifth day of the Indian month Magh, which corresponds to the January–February period in our reckoning of time.
Sankranti and Thai Pongal are celebrated in Maharashtra and South India in mid-January to mark the beginning of the spring season.
The "Traditional New Year", celebrated in April, goes back to an ancient period in Sri Lankan history. Various beliefs connected with the bounty of the harvest gave birth to rituals and ceremonies which take place in this period. The advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC led to a new take on the existing New Year activities.
The Vietnamese celebrate the New Year in late January or early February, and this is also known as the beginning of Spring. Many fireworks and firecrackers are set off to scare away evil spirits.
My mid-February Springfest consists of a celebratory meal of fish in every form, ranging from octopus to shark. We build a vast bonfire around which we congregate well into the night amid much laughter, song and rejoicing.
I brew a sort of white beer which I fancy emulates and celebrates the Babylonian creation. We have many colored powders and the guests are supplied with white-primed plywood squares, home-made glue, charcoal and other atavic sundries so that many a joyful commemorative piece is crafted. At midnight we have firecrackers and a small firework display and we burn all manner of effigies of evil in the bonfire. It is a joyful occasion for all.
So, you see, my anticipatory Springfest has some cultural underpinnings, albeit I came to gather these facts after the event, so to speak. In line with Celtic tradition, I shall be celebrating the start of Summer on May 1st, which puts me in mind of an old song:
O the summer time has come
And the trees are sweetly bloomin'
And wild mountain thyme
Grows around the purple heather
May the sweetness of Spring melt the stoniest hearts and bring resolutions of goodwill throughout our wonderful Blue Planet!
I welcome feedback from you all regarding any celebrations of spring or even cultural snippets concerning the whole business across cultures and through the ages. I would be pleased to include any interesting snippets in the above writeup and indicate your contribution.