The spring equinox is a time for new beginnings. It’s a time when many cultures stop to appreciate the little things, to thank the earth for its offerings, and to welcome the new growing season. This infographic visualizes the spring equinox rituals of 15 countries around the world. While some of these countries consider the spring equinox to be the start of their new year, others kick off the first day of spring in some truly amazing ways, from setting snowmen on fire to dousing each other with water to eating massive quantities of eggs. These countries sure know how to usher in the spring!
Click on image to view the full-size infographic
England: Ostara at Stonehenge
Every year on March 20, Druids, Pagans, Wiccans, and tourists gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the first day of spring. This celebration is called Ostara, named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess who represents dawn. They gather at Stonehenge in the early morning to welcome Ostara and watch as the sun rises over the ring of stones. In addition to chanting and playing music, part of the celebration includes drinking dandelion and burdock cordials, which are thought to cleanse the blood and act as a tonic for the body after the hardships of winter.
Switzerland: The Sechseläuten
The Sechseläuten, which means “the six o’clock ringing of the bells,” is Zurich’s spring festival that marks the day when the workday would begin to end at 6, instead of 5, thanks to spring’s extra hours of sunlight. The day was celebrated by burning a figure of a snowman called the Böögg, which represented driving out winter and welcoming spring. These days, burning the Böögg is also said to be a way for the people of Zurich to predict the weather for that coming summer. The faster the flames reach its head, the nicer the weather is predicted to be that summer.
Thailand: Songkran Water Festival
The Songkran Water Festival takes place shortly after the spring equinox, falling between April 13 and 15. The water festival marks the beginning of the new year and represents making a fresh start through cleansing and purification. To bring good luck and to wash away any bad thoughts and actions, they have a tradition of sprinkling water on people. This tradition has been taken to new heights in the modern era, with hoses and buckets now being used to drench people. It is now known as the wildest water fight in the world, and those celebrating should expect to be soaked for the entire three days.
Bosnia: Cimburijada (the Festival of Scrambled Eggs)
The first day of spring in Zenica, Bosnia, is celebrated with Cimburijada, or the Festival of Scrambled Eggs. The eggs are symbolic of birth and new life that comes with the beginning of spring. The celebration begins at dawn with everyone feasting together on a massive amount of eggs that are cooked and scrambled on large pans in the street. The rest of the day is spent partying, cooking food, and jumping into the river, even if there’s still snow on the ground.
Spain: Las Fallas
Las Fallas takes place in Valencia from March 15 to 19 and is one of the biggest celebrations in Spain, attracting thousands of visitors every year. While it is loosely connected to an ancient pagan celebration of the spring equinox, it also recognizes the day of St. Joseph (March 19), the patron saint of carpenters, and celebrates the longer days and extra hours of sunlight that benefit carpenters. The festival starts with the display of 700 huge statues that depict current events or satirical scenes, called ninots, around the city. The next few days are spent admiring the ninots and eating pastries, and on the last day, the ninots are set aflame. Only one ninot is spared, by popular vote, and is then exhibited in a museum with past favorites.
Scotland: Whuppity Scoorie
Whuppity Scoorie is a celebration of spring’s approach that takes place in Lanark, Scotland, on March 1. No one in the town really knows when it started or what it means. Some believe it’s an ancient ritual that’s meant to chase away winter or bad spirits. This ritual is enacted at exactly 5:55 p.m., when the “wee bell” is rung and the local children start to run around the St. Nicholas church swinging paper balls on strings above their heads. Then comes the scramble, where the children search for coins that are thrown on the ground for them.
Nowruz is the Persian New Year and is celebrated by millions of people around the world. The Iranian calendar is a solar calendar, and the first day of the year is celebrated on the spring equinox. It’s a celebration of new beginnings, which many recognize with a deep cleaning of their home and a refresh of their wardrobe. Traditional celebrations also include the Haft Sin table, which holds seven symbolic items that start with the Farsi letter “S” to symbolize their hopes for a happy and successful new year. Goldfish are also placed on the table for good luck, as well as poetry books and the Quran to signify enlightenment.
India: Holi (the Festival of Colors)
Holi is a celebration of the end of winter and the victory of good over evil with the arrival of spring. It takes place the day after the full moon in March, although in some parts of India, it may be celebrated earlier. Holi is also known as the festival of colors, as people celebrate all day by throwing and smearing each other with colored powder and drenching each other with water. Water balloons, water guns, and sprinklers are common sights throughout the day. Bhang, a paste made from cannabis, is traditionally consumed on this day.
Belarus: Welcoming the Birds
In Belarus, the beginning of spring is symbolized by birds returning to their homeland for the warmer weather that will be coming. To celebrate this, Belarusians will decorate trees with ribbons and paper birds that they’ve made. They will also bake bread in the shape of a bird, bring it outside, and throw it up into the sky, followed by singing a spring call to the birds.
Mexico: Kukulkan Temple and Pyramid of the Sun
The ancient civilizations of Mexico constructed their temples based on the movement of celestial bodies so that there would be alignments on certain days of the year. Chichen Itza’s Tempke of Kukulkan is one of these sites. At 4 p.m. on the day of the spring equinox, many gather to watch as the light from the sun makes a shadow that looks like a serpent slithering down the steps of the pyramid.
The Pyramid of the Sun, located in Teotihuacan, is another popular spot to celebrate the spring equinox. Thousands of people come dressed in white and red to to climb to the top of the pyramid and perform rituals. They believe that stretching their arms toward the sun while wearing these colors will help them to absorb special energy that is only present during the spring equinox.
Poland: Drowning of Marzanna
To symbolize the beginning of spring, the children of Poland create Marzanna dolls out of straw and other flammable materials and perform a ritual burning and subsequent drowning of the dolls in the river. Marzanna is a female goddess associated with death, winter, and nightmares, so this ritual is a way of cleansing people of the harsh winter they’ve endured. They can then welcome the new season of spring by collecting flowers and decorating branches.
Italy: Women of Sicily Plant Seeds
The rebirth of spring was of special significance to ancient Italy, and women would make a trip to the gardens of Adonis during the spring equinox to plant seeds. This tradition has lived on with the women of Sicily, who continue to plant a variety of seeds on the first day of spring. The sprouts that grow from these seeds are tied with a red ribbon and placed on graves on Good Friday as symbols of the triumph of life over death.
Japan: Shunbun No Hi (Vernal Equinox Day)
Shunbun No Hi, or Vernal Equinox Day, is a public holiday in Japan, and most people will have the day off from work, as this is a time for them to reflect on traditions and show appreciation for nature and all living things after a long winter. On this day, many Japanese families will visit the gravestones of their ancestors to clean the debris, replant flowers, and make offerings. Farmers will also use this special day to pray for good luck with their crops in the upcoming growing season.
China: The Egg-Standing Game
The people of China have been playing the egg-standing game on the first day of spring for more than 4,000 years. Since the sun passes directly over the equator on this day, it is believed that an egg will be able to stand upright, and if it does, it will bring good luck. Kids decorate eggs in preparation for the celebration and try to balance them when the day comes.
Egypt: Sham El-Nessim
Sham El-Nessim is one of Egypt’s oldest festivals, dating back to 2700 B.C. It celebrates the arrival of spring and recognizes the agricultural background of ancient Egyptians. This festival used to be celebrated on the day of the spring equinox but is now celebrated closer to Easter. Egyptians recognize this celebration by visiting parks, zoos, and gardens to show their appreciation for nature with their families.