Happy May Day! Here are some rad spring traditions from around the world
In some parts of the globe (looking at you, my frozen Midwestern homeland) spring can be fickle at best and deceitful at worst—a 65 degree day here, a little snow there—which is why I’ve realized it’s all the more important to have faith during the interim that warmer days will eventually stick arrive. And what better way to reassure ourselves that a fresh season of sunshine, fro-yo, and possibility is on the horizon than with a few time-honored springtime traditions?
When I think of spring rituals, I instantly think of gardening, spring cleaning, and eating a little healthier. But if you’re feeling like you want to get a bit metaphysical, why not put a modern spin on some alternative activities that people have been participating in throughout the ages and across the globe? There are many similarities to our modern inclinations to tidy up, refresh our bodies and spirits, and reacquaint ourselves with nature. So open up those windows, dust off your flip flops, and take a deep breath of fresh air. Spring is upon us!
Clean out the cobwebs with Nowruz
It turns out there’s nothing new about spring cleaning: ancient Iranian culture observed a holiday called Nowruz each year to celebrate spring’s arrival, beginning on the vernal equinox, and it started with a traditional spring cleaning of the home or “Khouneh Tekouni,” which literally translates to “shaking the house.” If you’re not feeling the need to tidy your home, you can still celebrate by bringing in fresh flowers, opening the windows, and letting natural light back in after winter’s dismal days.
Another way to spruce up? Let’s just say I can’t be the only one who requires a solid three weeks of exfoliating prior to being “sandal ready.” Add extra comfort to your daily routine by drawing a bath with soothing epsom salts, exfoliating your skin, and then doubling up on moisturizer, which will revive your bod after winter’s suffocating wrath. No matter what you’re freshening up, it always feels nice to spruce up our homes and ourselves by paying attention to anything that may need a little extra love (or exfoliating.)
Practice random acts of kindness for Floralia
The springtime tradition of May Day dates back further than the middle ages, with roots in pagan traditions that celebrated the renewal of life after winter. (There’s also a May Day which celebrates the Industrial Workers of the World, a separate thing altogether.) Traditional May Day celebrations first occurred with “Floralia,” which was the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers.
During the Floralia festival, spring flowers were celebrated, trees and poles were wrapped with violets, and flowers were abundant everywhere. Amazingly, the tradition has held up to this day, with kiddos leaving their friends baskets filled with flowers, candy, or other goodies to mark the first day of May. If you feel like you’ve outgrown the May Day baskets of your youth (who says you have to?) spring can still remind us of how nice it is to do something sweet for our friends. Send a fresh bouquet or pick up a friend’s favorite dessert—unexpected gestures are always more fun.
Honor your past with Qīngmíng Jié
Qīngmíng Jié is a Chinese holiday in the spring that has been used for centuries to honor a person’s ancestors. Also known as “tomb sweeping day,” families use this day to visit the graves of deceased loved ones. Families also use this time to re-immerse themselves in nature, plant trees, and take walks in the countryside together.
The tradition of taking time to honor those we’ve lost is a beautiful thing, and on a metaphorical level, we can all use spring as a time to pause, honor the past, and prepare for the future. In the winter, our energy tends to be lower. Spring’s appearance symbolizes a good time to bury our past and look forward to a season of renewal. It’s time to let go of any past pain or weighty, wintery thoughts that are holding you down. Pay your respects to your trials and tribulations in life but also prepare for a hopeful new season so you can move forward in peace.
Treat yo’self on Maslenitsa
Certain characters on Parks and Recreation would be impressed by this tradition. In Russia, people celebrate Maslenitsa, a week-long holiday that takes place before Lent. An ancient Slavic miletone, the holiday is now tied to the Christian calendar and includes feasting—mainly with Russian pancakes called blinis.
It’s said that pancakes are the springtime treat of choice because they are round and warm like the sun, which makes perfect sense. All the best foods are round: doughnuts, bagels, pizzas…but I digress. Decadent treats shouldn’t only be reserved for the coldest days of winter; treat yo’self to mini indulgences this spring. Clear eyes. Full hearts. More pancakes.
Get creative with the Foire de Paris
Need another reason to flock to Paris? For over a century, the Foire de Paris has been held there as a way to celebrate the latest inventions, innovations, and creations. The annual event, which lasts a week and a half, debuts roughly 600 new inventions each year, showcasing everything from home innovations to technological inventions and the latest art installments or sculptures. If you can’t hop on the next flight to the city of light, there are still plenty of ways to get in touch with your inner artiste. Something as simple as sitting in the spring sun with a sketchpad and some colored pencils, even if you lack any technical abilities like me, can be incredibly relaxing and lets your mind wander down a creative new path.
Set a positive intention by burning some sage
The Native American practice of smudging with sage or other sacred herbs has long been thought to help clear a space of stagnant negative energy. Rituals that help us make way for new energy can be beneficial during any seasonal transition, but none seems more warranting of a quick energy refresh than spring. It may seem a little out there to some people, but the simple practice of smudging your house can as simple and calming as lighting a candle: it’s a relaxing way to take a moment and set a calming new intention.
Scientifically speaking, burning sage releases negative ions, which has been linked with a more positive mood. Learn how to safely burn sage in your home and welcome spring with open arms.
Regardless of what rituals you partake in—whether it’s setting a positive intention every Monday morning, or tidying up every spring—these small acts can help bring meaning to our lives and make each season, week, or year a bit more magical.
[Image via Shutterstock]