The cold breezy days are finally coming to an end. Far and wide, everywhere in the United Kingdom starts to burst with yellow daffodils.
The days begin to get warmer and longer. As spring arrives, there’s an abundance of events around the country and worldwide to welcome the new season.
March 5: Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day is a traditional feast that always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday and is preceded by Ash Wednesday. Several pancakes are made with different spreads that are truly tantalising. A prominent part of the day is pancake racing. People toss their pancakes several times as they run down the streets. In some cases, the competitors wear fancy dress costumes. The legend tells that the tradition originates from 1445. A woman in Buckinghamshire rushed to confess her sins in her apron, whilst making pancakes.
Shrove Tuesday derives from the ritual of “shriving” wherein Christians confess their sins to a priest and ask for repentance. A bell would be rung to call people for confession. This came to be known as “Pancake Bell” and it is still rung in some churches today. Christians believe the ingredients used in pancakes symbolise the four pillars of the Christian faith – eggs as ‘creation’, salt as being ‘whole’, flour as ‘staff of life’ and milk as ‘purity’.
March 17: Saint Patrick’s Day
Every year on March 17, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in honour of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The celebration commemorates the day of Saint Patrick’s death, and was originally a religious holiday to celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.
Cities and towns are illuminated in green, with many dressed in green and painted shamrock on their faces. The day is further marked with spectacular parades and performances from well-known Irish musicians. Alcohol consumption, usually of Guinness is an integral part of the day. One is immersed in all kinds of Irish culture – from tasting traditional food such as Irish stew to step dancing the Riverdance.
Surprisingly, Saint Patrick’s Day is shared across the world. In New York alone, more than 150,000 people participate in parades. Irish pubs fill with Irish immigrants and many other nationalities to celebrate the holiday.
March 1 – 9: The Carnival
The Carnival is a week-long festival held before Lent in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is considered as the largest celebration in the world with over two million people dressed in peculiar sequins and feathers swirling to the infectious beat of samba drums. The Carnival is filled with floats, revellers and performances from various samba schools in Rio. The streets come to life as the astounding dancers march through the Sambadrome.
One highlight of the event are the simultaneous street parties. Popular “bandas” provide irresistible music not only for the dancers, but also to the tourists. The tourists and the natives come together in this uplifting spirit of The Carnival: to dance and party through the streets. The lively colours, extravagant festivity and hospitable citizens makes this event one of the most thrilling and well-known festivals worldwide.
March 20 – 21: Holi Festival
Holi is a Hindu festival that marks the beginning of spring. It is widely known as “The Festival of Colours” and is intended to give thanks for an abundant harvest season. The festival celebrates love, respect and triumph of good over evil.
Participants from all backgrounds throw coloured powder and water balloons to each other in public spaces. Bonfires, traditional sweets, dancing and music are also a part of the celebration. Holi festival encapsulates unity amongst participants. Prejudice and discrimination are smeared with the vibrant colours of Holi. It shows that even a relaxed celebration can bring people together.