What will you be doing to welcome the sun this year?
From chasing cheese down a hill to throwing water at Buddha statues, we’ve found some seriously inventive ways to celebrate spring around the world. See our six favourite spring festivals below, each with their own quirk-laden characteristics that make them great…
1. Valencia, Spain: Las Fallas
Every March, the residents of Valencia bring in the new season with the Las Fallas festival. Las Fallas translates as ‘the fires’ and is a crazy mixture of Guy Fawkes’ Night and a city-wide street party, with a dash of Mad Max. Among the daily paella contests, bullfights and parades, the main attraction is the ninots – plaster and cardboard statues satirising the year’s events – spread across some 350 sites. On the last day if the festival, the ninots are filled with fireworks and burned on the stroke of midnight for la Crema, giving the impression of the whole city set ablaze. This year, the festivals takes place on 15th-19th March.
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2. Seville, Spain: Semana Santa
On the flipside of Valencia’s hedonism is the evocative Semana Santa en Sevilla. Throughout Holy Week in the run-up to Easter, more than 55 church brotherhoods lead processions through the streets of Seville, carrying floats featuring different depictions of Christ and the Virgin Mary. It’s intense, with a real sense of ancient ritual: nazarenos dress in long robes and face-obscuring, pointed hoods, while penitents have bare feet and carry crosses. Some processions go on all night by candle-light, and some are carried out in silence. This year the event will take place from the 29th March – 6th April.
For the chance to join the huge crowds that flock to Seville for Semana Santa every year, browse our hostels in Seville.
3. Thailand: Songkran Water Festival
Falling over the dates of the old Thai New Year, the Songkran Water Festival is a cleansing festival that starts with a country-wide spring-clean and ends with an almighty water fight. This year, Songkran will be from the 13th-15th April. On the 13th, old or useless items are thrown out of houses and burned to avoid bad luck, and on the 14th offerings are made to statues of Buddha at the local wat. The Buddha statues are then washed with perfumed water, and Buddhas from important wats are given a parade, where crowds throw water on them. The water-fight begins in earnest after this, with people dousing each other with buckets and super-soakers on the street.
4. Sweden: Walpurgis Night
Sweden is the ringleader in Northern Europe when it comes to Walpurgis Night. The festival falls six months before Halloween (this year on the 30th April), and it’s easy to think of it a kind of summer equivalent of the spooky celebration. Originating in German folk myth, where it goes that witches gather on Brocken Mountain on April 30th to await spring’s arrival, it’s celebrated with huge bonfire and fireworks all over central and northern Europe. Sweden holds the biggest events, as with national holiday falling the day after the whole affair turns in to a two-day party. Besides the bonfires, see student parades in Gothenburg and Uppsala, and traditional choral singers at Skansen, Stockholm’s open-air museum and zoo.
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5. UK: Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire
For a country that prides itself on its eccentric rituals, the annual Cheese-rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire might be one of the UK’s nuttiest. Taking place every Spring Bank Holiday (25th May this year), young locals (and an increasing number of internationals who travel in specially) compete to chase a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down a steep hill, invariably incurring several sprains, concussions and broken bones between them – and that’s it.
6. California, USA: Cinco de Mayo
What was once a celebration of Mexican military victory, has now turned into something a little more to do with drinking tequila and enjoying the sun. Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) is largely celebrated in the south-western states of the USA, with California in particular. Although a similar holiday takes place in Puebla in Mexico, it has a slightly different meaning. In the US, it’s a time to honour Mexican culture with some of the country’s greatest exports including food, music and some hefty partying with tequila-laced beverages. Extreme day-drinkers welcome.
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