Springtime traditions around the world
After a long and frosty winter, the UK is beginning to see the sun a little more often, and that can only mean one thing: spring is around the corner!
With British Summer Time approaching (the clocks go forward at 1am on Sunday March 27, by the way), excitement is building around the country as kids and adults alike look forward to moderately better weather and a whole load of Easter treats.
There's more to spring than chocolate eggs and daffodils, however - especially if you look beyond the British borders. Below are some of the second quarter's most interesting traditions from around the world.
It's about this time of year that people in Thailand
start thinking about the traditional New Year celebrations of Songkran, which takes place over April 13-15.
The whole of Songkran is rich with symbolic traditions, but the holiday is probably best known for its iconic water festival, where people - young and old - enjoy water fights in the streets. Sometimes even the elephants get involved!
Cleaning is also part of the standard Songkran preparation in some parts of Thailand, so that one's not unique to us Brits.
Unsurprisingly, popular gifts and purchases in the build-up to Songkran include water pistols and balloons - perfect for soaking loved ones! Towels are optional, as there's plenty of sun to dry off in.
A water fight would be ideal for anyone who's just taken part in Holi, a springtime festival that occurs in northern India
. Celebrated by Hindus, it involves throwing different coloured powders around until everyone's covered. The idea is that it represents the many different hues you'll see at this time of year, so expect lots of reds, greens, blues, pinks and yellows. In fact, just expect every colour you can think of.
The next one's set to take place on March 23, so there's plenty of time to get gifts to loved ones over in India. Holi colours, as they're known, are the most obvious choice, but water guns and white kurtas are also popular.
Northern Europe: Walpurgis Night
A little closer to home, in Scandinavia and wider northern Europe, you'll find people celebrating the arrival of spring with Walpurgis Night - a traditional holiday which takes place on April 30. The event is marked in different ways, though, depending on where you are.
, people dress in costumes and play pranks on each other, making as much noise as they can to ward away the evil spirits. Some families even leave food - mainly bread, butter and honey - as an offering to phantom hounds.
In Finland, people party through the night, enjoying carnival-like festivities, while in Sweden
it's more normal to light bonfires and sing folk songs.
Visually, Walpurgis Night has many similarities with Halloween, and people often trade gifts featuring horror-themed imagery.
Japan: Cherry blossom picnics
It's around spring that Japan
somehow manages to become even more beautiful, as the cherry blossom trees begin to bloom. Now, this is more nature than tradition, but the colourful arrival does spark the start of picnic season among Japanese people young and old.
People eat all sorts at these gatherings too - everything from barbecued meats to the cherry blossom leaves themselves! Traditional sake is also popular, and celebrators tend to share with those around them. As for gift ideas, why not send a picnic blanket, or perhaps a new basket?
Spring is all about new beginnings, and that's one theme that runs through many of the traditions you can find around the world. So, as we look forward, see this as a fresh start for yourself and your business. Here's to a new season of happiness and (hopefully) a bit more sunshine!
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