Spring is a wonderful season. The weather gets warmer, flowers begin to bloom, our moods get brighter… Naturally, people around the world have developed their own customary ways of celebrating springtime. Different cultures get into the spirit of spring in various ways, from eating specific foods to gathering at special sites to playing certain games. Check out these festive spring traditions and get ready to celebrate!
Mexico: The Feathered Serpent
Annually, on the vernal equinox (March 20), an amazing phenomenon takes place at Chichén Itza, Mexico’s world-famous archaeological site. The main building at the ancient city is known as El Castillo (“The Castle”), and on March 20 the afternoon sun appears to hit its western side in a very peculiar way. Its huge, 91-step staircases are flanked by sculptures of feathered serpents. The ancient Maya built this temple, actually called the Temple of Kukulcán, in honor of their serpent deity. When the sun hits the staircase, the light forms seven triangles, and the resulting shadows resemble a 120-foot snake crawling down the side of the temple. This unique celestial occurrence attracts thousands of spectators to Chichén Itza each year. Scientists believe that the construction of the temple shows how masterful the Maya were at architecture and design.
Thailand: Songkran Festival
The Songkran Festival, the Thai New Year’s celebration, is held each year shortly after the spring equinox. “Songkran” is based on a Sanskrit word for “astrological passage.” On this day, it’s customary to clean the house and dress up in colorful clothes. People give food to monks, donate materials to the temple for repairs, and release captive animals like birds, fish, or cows. It’s also custom to celebrate this day by sprinkling or spraying water.
England: Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll
In Brockworth, Gloucestershire, people celebrate spring by participating in the historic tradition of a cheese-rolling contest. Contestants must chase a rolling round cheese down the steep incline of Cooper’s Hill. The first person to cross the finish line at the bottom of this concave hill wins an 8-lb round of Double Gloucester cheese. Some believe the contest can be traced back to the Romans or to the Ancient Britons as part of a fertility rite. Here’s a video of how it all goes down.
USA: White House Easter Egg Roll
In a U.S. tradition thought to have been started as far back as the 1800s, visitors gather on the White House lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll. This day of fun for the whole family is held on Easter Monday. Usually, the President, First Lady, or participating celebrities will host story time for kids. The day includes games, entertainment, and of course the Egg Roll itself!
This spring holiday is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays. Passover lasts a week and always occurs during the spring. It commemorates and celebrates the liberation of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt. A holiday dinner called the Seder features symbolic food meant to be eaten on Passover, such as matzo and dishes featuring bitter herbs.