International Perspectives on Spring

International Perspectives on Spring

The leaves are starting to poke out, the snow is melting, and the scent of young love perfumes the air. Yep, it’s the beginning of Spring, when people around the world take a moment to pause and enjoy nature’s offerings. From Romania’s present laden festival to Argentina’s day off for students, these festivals are varied, but a constant part of any country’s culture. Here are 10 of our favorite:

1) Romania | Mărțișor

Mărțișor, celebrated on March 1st, began over 8,000 years ago as the beginning of the New Year in Romania. Since then, it has become known as a celebration for Spring. Despite the change in meaning, the traditions of wearing small trinkets with red and white twine has stayed the same. Participation ensures you will have a prosperous and healthy year, as the tradition is believed to ward off evil spirits!

Romanian trinkets for the Festival of Mărțișor.

2) Mexico | Festivales de Primavera

In Mexico, ‘Festivales de primavera’ (March 20th) is a popular holiday in which people celebrate the vernal equinox by having ceremonies, visiting astrological areas, and dressing children in plant and animal costumes and having them dance. If you’re in Mexico, make sure to check out Chichen Itza or plan to go there this Autumn! This is one of the most popular places to celebrate Spring in Mexico; the most popular attraction being a serpent that appears due to a trick of light and shadow that only appears for the Spring and Autumn equinox!

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Festival participants at Festivales de Primavera.

3) China | Qingming Festival

Nothing tests the loyalty of your friends and allies like being in exile does. Jie Zitui (770 - 476 BC) proved his loyalty by cutting off a piece of meat from his leg for his starving lord (recently exiled). Long story short, the lord created a holiday to commemorate Jie Zitui, and the holiday has since been used as a time to experience the changing of the seasons, as well as pay respects to the dead by cleaning their tombs and offering flowers.

Family visiting graves for the Qingming Festival.

4) India | Holi

Have you celebrated Holi? If so, I’d be surprised if the mere utterance of the word didn’t bring a smile to your face and a tear or two to your cheek. Celebrated to commemorate the victory of Good over Evil with the coming of Spring, all ages and social class alike take to the streets to coat their neighbors and loved ones in technicolored dyes and powders!

Colorful celebrants at a Holi Festival.

5) Argentina | Spring Day

If you’re IN work then you’re OUT of luck when it comes to Argentina. Because Argentina is in the southern hemisphere, spring is actually celebrated on September 21st, but only the youth get the advantage of having the entire day to celebrate. Students have the day off in order to party on the streets, at beaches, and in clubs, or just to enjoy sports in the changing weather. By nighttime however, you can be sure the cities of Argentina will rumble with parties and music alike for an unforgettable experience!

Students taking the day off for Spring.

6) Thailand | Songkran Festival/Water Festival

Based on the story of a child prodigy, a god, and his seven daughters, Thailand’s Songkran Festival (also known as the Water Festival) is a celebration of not only the beginning of Spring, but also the beginning of the New Year. It falls on April 13th every year, and is marked by festive water rituals. Family, friends, and strangers splash each other with water to wish each other good luck, and as a way to wash away the bad. If you’re planning on joining the festivities, be sure to bring a waterproof bag!

Participants getting washed off by an elephant during the Water Festival in Thailand.

7) Greece | Easter

I know, I know - how are Easter egg hunts a spring tradition? Things are a little different over in Greece, where the beaches are pebbly and the eggs are red. This year, the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Easter will be on Sunday, April 16th. For Easter, Greeks will gather in churches and at homes. Traditional foods include magiritsa and special breads, as well as the customary red eggs. Participants walk around with their red egg and tap them against other red eggs. The last person with an intact egg gets the pride of victory.

Red eggs and traditoinal bread for Easter.

8) Colombia | Carnaval de Barranquilla

If you wanted to celebrate spring with the Colombians, you’re too late -- their Carnaval de Barranquilla was from February 25-28! Dubbed “the biggest party in the Americas”, the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Event pulls in over 50 performing groups, and citizens follow along, dancing to the cumbia and mapalé. There’s even a pre-Carnival attraction that begins in mid-January.

Festival performers for the Carnaval de Barranquilla.

9) Peru | Trujillo Spring Festival

Where better a place to celebrate Spring than the city nicknamed “the city of eternal spring”? In Trujillo, Peru, there is an annual Spring Festival in which beauty queens from Lions Clubs around the city compete to be crowned the Spring Queen. There is also a showcasing of traditional instruments, dances, and arts. And, because Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, the celebration falls typically in the last week of September.

Performers at the Trujilla Festival in Peru.

10) Egypt | Sham el-Nessim

Sham el-Nessim is an ancient Egyptian festival that has somehow survived thousands of years. Its direct meaning is the “smelling of the breeze”. In the past, this has been celebrated by smelling a fresh onion, or walking about outdoors to smell the air. Now, Egyptians will flock to parks, the Nile, zoos, or any other green space to partake in the scent of the breeze, and eat a traditional meal of fermented fish, colored eggs, lettuce, scallions or green onions.

Egyptians celebrating Sham el-Nessim in a park.

Want to learn more about these cultures? Check out our volunteer and work abroad experiences at http://aiesecus.org/opportunities !

Tai McLaughlin


It's not a tattoo.

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