Springtime is just as challenging a time of the year as Winter. Whilst I find it cheering to view trees laden with blossom and see the first buds and blooms, this time of the year also gets me thinking with a greater intensity of the things that are less than perfect in the world and my life in general.
I am more aware of the passage of time and my often futile efforts to achieve anything of note on a day to day basis. The World seems a more unstable place than it ever has been in my lifetime – with war and threat of more war just around the corner.
I suppose this is why people do practical things like Spring cleaning at this time of the year. The fresher brighter light tends to make the cob-webs and dust that much more visible. Either we attack the dirt and dust or find some way of living with it until winter comes again and it’s no longer so noticeable.
This is why Springtime is peak season for festivals around the world. Getting out and doing something a bit unusual or a bit crazy helps you to forget about the depressing stuff and clear your mind for the future. Festivals unite communities and provide a chance to make new friends and renew old aquaintances. Celebrations provide a connection to past history and the hopes of the future.
Here’s a selection of some of the most unusual festivals I could find that take place around this time of the year:-
(1) The Cheung Chau Bun Festival in Hong Kong – Every year around this time 2 huge bamboo mountains covered with handmade buns are set up near Pak Tai Temple on the Island of Cheung Chau a short ferry ride from the city. The festivities in celebration of the God Pak Tai, who is said to have conquered plague and evil spirits on the Island, culminate in a “bun scrambling contest” at mid-night on the last day.
(2) The Bunun Ear Shooting Festival – Takes place in the Village of Yongkang, Yanping District, Taitung County, Taiwan. The contests taking place during these festivities sharpen the hunting skills of warriors and teach young boys these traditional skills. In the past, the targets would have been the ears of pigs and deer but now they are animal shaped targets drawn on pieces of cardboard.
(3) The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake in Gloucester, England. From the top of a hill a 9lb round of Double Gloucester Cheese is rolled and and competitors start racing down the hill after it. The aim is to reach the cheese. However, with the cheese reaching speeds of up to 70mph that is unlikely that this would happen, so the first person to reach the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. In 2013, for reasons of health and safety, a foam replica replaced the actual cheese.
(4) The Sanja Matsuri or Three Shrine Festival takes place in Asakusa, Tokyo held in honour of the 3 men (Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari, and Hajino Nakatomo) who founded the Buddhist Temple of Senso-ji. During the festival days, people flood the streets surrounding the Senso-ji and the air is filled with the sounds of flutes, whistles, chanting and taiko (traditional Japanese drums). Three black lacquered wood shrines decorated with gold sculptures and painted with gold leaf are paraded through the streets. Other festival attractions include Geisha (traditional Japanese female entertainers), Taiko performances and tatoo displays by Yakuza (criminal syndicate) members.
(5) Teachers’ Day in South Korea – Pupils traditionally pay their respects to their teachers by presenting them with carnations and handmade “love cards” expressing messages of gratitude towards their teachers. Teachers’ Day in South Korea is said to have originated in Seoul back in 1963 after a team of Red Cross youth members began visiting their sick ex-teachers in hospitals.
(6) Kattenstoet – The Festival of the Cats takes place in Ypres, Belgium. The festivities include a parade to mark the Ypres tradition from the Middle Ages in which cats were thrown from the belfry tower of the Cloth Hall to the town square below. It is said that the cats were associated with witchcraft and that killing them was thought to rid the town of evil spirits. Another story says that the cats were kept to control vermin attracted to wool stored in the town and were cruelly disposed of when the temperature warmed up and the wool had been sold in Springtime.
Why We Risk Losing Touch With The Past
Researching a little further into the background of these festivals makes enlightening reading. It’s just a shame that some landmarks in time are overlooked and at risk of being forgotten. For example, many people do not realise that today is actually Middlesex Day. This day marks the victory of the Middlesex Regiment (known as the “Die Hards) on 16 May 1811 (The TV series starring Sean Bean was based on them) in stopping the advance of Napoleon’s French forces into Portugal giving the British and Wellington to time to
When those men who survived returned home to Middlesex they would have depended upon their family and support of community to help them to recover from the trauma of war and lead productive lives in the future. However, it seems that the ultimate sacrifice the men made in the name of the County may not have been enough to secure a place in the hearts and minds of future generations and Middlesex Day is in danger of being forgotten.
Many festivals which take place around the world arose to commemorate war and other challenging situations. Does it take something as life changing as this in order for us to change the lives of others for the better?
All too often in my own life I find myself focusing and worrying about unimportant things rather than choosing to take simple steps to work towards my own personal goals as well as hopefully make the world a better place in any small way I can.
As John Lennon once said “Life is what happens when your busy making other plans”.
Taking Action to Create a Better Future
Half way through writing this post I got up to make one of numerous numbers of cups of coffee that I enjoy sitting at my computer. The simple act of just turning on a tap and getting water to drink or make a beverage is an unknown concept in many corners of the globe.
According to United Nations 2013 data some 783 million people do not have access to clean drinking water and 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation. I cannot image what it must be like to walk for miles in over-whelming heat to fill a bucket with polluted water that would quench your thirst but damage your health.
Whilst making my coffee, I remembered an organisation that I had heard about recently called Global Angels.
In an act of metaphorical Spring cleaning, rather than undertaking some dusting or sorting of papers, when I returned to my computer, I went straight to the Global Angels website and made a donation.
The exciting thing is that just one simple act of donating a tenner means that one person in Africa is provided with clean drinking water for 20 years!! So whilst I may not be able to create something as huge as world peace I can take just a small step like this and create a big change in someone’s life that is arguably much more important.
These days people worry about their donation going to the right place but with these guys they do give a promise that every penny of your donation will go straight to their work on the ground.
In honor of the spirit of the Middlesex “Die Hards” and Middlesex Day, why not send a tenner to Global Angels and make that glass of water or cup of tea or coffee taste that much more wonderful knowing that you’ve provided someone with clean drinking water for 20 years.
Happy Middlesex Day to all!
Chinese New Year Celebrations in Sydney – Australia
Oaxaca Mexico – Festivities