Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Tue March 22 2016

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | March 22, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Welcome Spring in Wildly Different Ways

    Welcome Spring in Wildly Different Ways

    PHOTO: Songkran Water Festival. (photo via Wikipedia)

    Cultures around the globe have distinctive ways of welcoming spring, traditions that have been carried out without fail for centuries, if not millennia. From water fights in Thailand to bonfire-hopping in Iran, there are some highly distinctive ways that the season is welcomed. Consider exploring these rituals during your spring travels, whenever they may be.

    Songkran Water Festival - Thailand

    Although it’s billed as the world's largest water fight, Songkran Water Festival is actually Thailand’s New Year, when Thais practice rituals of cleaning and purification for three days in April.

    Buddha statues are doused with scented water and monks and elders are supplied with ritual baths, but the real fun arrives when locals bring out water guns and buckets to pour on everyone in sight, symbolizing the washing away of bad luck.

    READ MORE: 4 Ways to Celebrate Spring in San Francisco

    April is the hottest month in Thailand so Songkran is a great way to cool off amid rising temps. This festival officially occurs between April 13 and 15, and is celebrated on major levels in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Phuket.

    Las Fallas Festival - Spain

    Fans of pyrotechnics and flames head to Valencia for the annual Las Fallas spring festival. At the beginning of March, fireworks and gunpowder displays herald the start of spring and all over the city, huge monuments are mounted at intersections and in parks. On March 19, streetlights are shut off and the monuments are stuffed with fireworks and set ablaze at midnight as locals dressed in traditional costumes dance and chant. Bullfights, pageants, parades and paella contests round out Las Fallas festivities.

    Nowruz - Iran

    The Spring Equinox marks the first day of the Persian New Year in Iran, which means that white-bearded Uncle Nowruz will bring presents to children. Households set up a Haft Seen table, which features seven symbolic items that bring rebirth and luck, including wheat grass, apples and sumac. The highlight of Nowruz is the building of bonfires on the last Wednesday of the year. Locals leap over the flames for good health in the new year.  While making the jump, they sing a song that welcomes the burnished skin that the fire provides.

    Special dishes and sweets including noodles in a soup that celebrants are supposed to untangle for good luck — another important aspect of Nowruz.

    Holla Mohalla - India

    Many travelers are familiar with the vibrant Holi Festival of colors celebrated throughout India every spring, but the Sikh Festival of Holla Mohalla is much more dramatic. On the day after Holi, the three-day festival of Holla Mohalla kicks off in Punjab. Usually falling in March, the fest features mock battles, fire breathing and martial arts to showcase Sikh battle skills. Music and poetry competitions cap off the activities.

    READ MORE: Where to Save on Spring and Summer Travel

    Naghol - Vanuatu

    The remote South Pacific island of Vanuatu hosts the wildest and perhaps, most familiar, spring festival. In April, when rainy season ends, and yams have been planted, the annual Naghol or land diving festival begins. The Sa tribe of Pentecost Island build a 98 feet tall spiked wooden tower. Men with vines tethered around their ankles jump off and their hair grazes the earth, before they bound back up, ensuring a fertile harvest. The vines are never measured precisely and tribal chiefs decide on the length for each diver. The Naghol festival is what inspired the development of bungee jumping, although with sturdier cords and platforms.


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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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