Spring is the epitome of renewal, of new beginnings, and fresh starts. Around the world, countries and cultures celebrate spring with festivals and events, some cooler and quirkier than others. If you want to come out of winter hibernation with a bang, these spring festivals around the globe won’t disappoint. From country-wide water fights to cheese rolls, these spring festivals are certainly something worth checking out.
If you make it to northern Europe, specifically Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the Czech Republic toward the end of April, chances are you will be privy to Walpurgis Night. Named after Saint Walpurga, a Catholic nun who was believed to have cured local illnesses in Germany and warded off sorcery, the night largely features a celebration of dancing around bonfires and maypoles to symbolize the banishing of evil spirits just in time for spring. And it’s almost a bit like Halloween in April, especially in Germany. People don costumes like witches and devils and play pranks on each other. At midnight, fireworks fill the night sky.
Held each year in mid-April, you can find perhaps the biggest water fight in the world in Thailand. For the young at heart and the young, the country celebrates the new year with Songkran, a weeklong festival aimed at creating a sense of renewal for the season. Main events include visits to Buddhist monasteries to give alms, seeing one’s elders, and cleaning homes in preparation for the new year. However, the quirkiest component to Songkran is easily the country-wide water fight. Armed with buckets and toy water pistols, the streets become a giant water fight (the Thai people believe water helps in purifying oneself for the year ahead). You can experience the celebration all across the country, but cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok tend to be the busiest. If you make it to the Ayutthaya Province, you can see elephants get in on the act. Be sure to pack your goggles and waterproof cameras for this one.
La Festa dei Ceri
In the small medieval Umbrian city of Gubbio, you can see a race come mid-May like no other. Known as the Race of the Candles, the event dates back to the 12th century. On the eve of the feast of the city’s patron saint, St. Ubaldo, three teams representing three different saints, St. Ublado, St. Giorgio, and St. Anthony, race through the city streets and up to the basilica of St. Ubaldo on top of Mount Ingino. They don’t just race the normal way. They have to carry a heavy wooden pedestal, representing a candle, with a saint statue on top. Crowds cheer them on as they make their way up the mountain. La Festa dei Ceri is usually followed by a torchlight procession and plenty of celebrations in the streets.
If you want to see streets that look like a giant crayon box just exploded, you can head to northern India for Holi. Often referred to as the Festival of Colors, Holi boasts Hindu origins. Locals and visitors alike celebrate the triumph of good over evil and the arrival of spring by tossing brightly colored powders at one another in the streets. While the main event of Holi, Rangwali Holi, consists of the colorful powder throwing, the event also includes Holika Dahan, when bonfires are lit to represent the burning of evil spirits. Holi is held every year come springtime, usually on the day after the first full moon of Phalunga, a month in the Hindu calendar.
Gloucester Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll
We’ve all heard of the tame egg rolls around Easter, but Gloucester, England takes those object rolls quite a bit further with its Gloucester Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll. Usually held in late May, the event features heavy rounds of Double Gloucester cheese hurled down a hill as competitors scramble to reach the cheese without some sort of injury. And why do they all do it? Just for that prestigious round of cheese…and bragging rights, of course! The quirky race attracts not only locals from the area but also visitors from all around the world who most simply want to see a cheese roll in their lifetime.
Have you been to a cool or quirky springtime festivals? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.