Finally! We’re pulling out of the freezing UK winter, ready to welcome warmer, sunny days. But in the UK, we don’t have much of a specific tradition to help bring in the season. For a number of cultures, however, spring is a big deal, a big deal that involves celebrations with alcohol. Here are five spring celebrations from different cultures in which booze features prominently.
SPRING AND SAKE IN JAPAN
The blooming of the cherry blossoms, a phenomenon admired by the entire country, traditionally mark the beginning of spring. Farmers consider the blossoms a “mark of the mountain gods” to whom they offer food and drink to ask the for a good year; the farmers’ annual cycle of work also commences with the season. For the wider public, spring is a time to take a some time off to enjoy the cherry blossom trees with some friends and a bottle of sake in a tradition known as Hanami.
THE WHITE MONTH OF MONGOLIA
Spring is the most important time of the year for Mongolians and is celebrated with Tsagaan Sar, or, the White Month, which is also the start of the lunar calendar year. Its rituals date back to the 1200s and the rule of Chingis Khan. Mongolian families gather the night prior to the first day of spring to feast because they believe that if they do not fill themselves up before spring starts, it means that they will be hungry for the rest of the year. The White Month also refers to eating white food such as milk, other dairy products and rice. In spirit with the month’s color, tradition also includes the drinking of the Mongolian spirit Airag, a form of fermented horse milk.
A WINE SACRIFICE IN CHINA
The Spring Sacrifice falls on the first day of the second month of the lunar calendar year and is a day when offerings to the gods are made to pray for healthy crops. Families gather together to drink Yichun wine. “Yichun” - also the name of a Northwestern Chinese city - means pleasant spring but the wine is also believed to cure ear illnesses which has made it be known as a “deafness-healing liquor.” Approximately two weeks after the start of the Western spring cycle, the Chinese celebrate the Qingming festival during which ancestors are revered at their burial sites and families congregate around tombs to feast and drink wine.
PASSOVER’S FOUR GLASSES
Passover, the Jewish celebration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt, is not technically a celebration of spring, but it is definitely a springtime celebration. At the Passover Seder, a feast which marks the start of Passover, families and friends read the story of their ancestors’ exodus from Egypt from a text called the Haggadah. At four intervals of the story, dinner guests drink a ritual glass of wine with each glass being connected to a different part of the story.
THOSE CRAZY YANKS AND THEIR SPRING BREAK
By far the most recent of the celebrations listed here, spring break has become a sort of ritual itself. American universities tend to give their students one week of break during the month of March coincidentally around the change of the season. Students flock to warmer climes, primarily to southern states and Mexico, to hit the beach and the booze.