In the Northern Hemisphere, the official arrival of spring is around March 21, the spring equinox. In the Southern Hemisphere, it's celebrated near the beginning of September. No matter where on Earth one resides, people of all ages and backgrounds likely agree about one thing: Watching the world come alive with the colors and smells of spring is the perfect time for a holiday.
Traditionally, the coming of spring is a sign of rebirth and renewal. It's the time of year when vibrant flowers bloom, non-deciduous trees wake from their winter hibernation and the Earth’s axis continues its tilt towards the sun. Throughout history, cultures and civilizations have celebrated the arrival of spring in many different ways. These celebrations have similarities, yet they’re all distinct, and some are rooted in ancient traditions.
Historical accounts link today’s May Day holiday to the ancient Roman festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers. People wore multi-colored clothing, danced and played games during the celebration. Though it has recently faded in popularity, the contemporary May Day celebration is held on May 1 and is characterized by celebrants dancing around a decorated pole, known as the “maypole.” Additionally, children put together May baskets full of flowers and treats to leave anonymously on the doorsteps of their neighbors.
During this traditional Jewish celebration of feasting and gift-giving, people also make baskets of food, which are then given to neighbors as well as people in need. Sometimes, donning bright costumes is part of the Purim festivities, which take place on Adar 14 on the Hebrew calendar, usually corresponding to a day or several days every March.
Holi Vivid colors are also part of the Hindi spring festival of Holi, an Indian national holiday. The “farewell to winter” celebration is lively with feasting, dancing, water balloon fights and bonfires. Festival-goers often paint their bodies with natural powdered dye made from different types of flowers. Many individuals consider Holi a time of new beginnings.
The theme of resurrection is often seen in spring festivals, echoing the rebirth of nature during this time of year. Also celebrated at the Vernal Equinox, the Japanese Buddhist holiday of Higan honors deceased spirits who have crossed into the world of enlightenment. The symbol of the holiday is the red spider lily, or higan, the flower of rebirth and the afterlife.