"I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring! / I do - Don't you? / 'Course you do!"
So sang the satirist Tom Lehrer in 1959 as he extolled the exuberance that the coming of spring heralds. And as May arrives, bringing with it warmer and drier weather, it's only natural that we too would want to celebrate!
Spring means different things to different people but one common thread to festivities the world over is that of renewal and growth. And whilst these may come from a variety of traditions, be they religious, agricultural or commercial, they all give us a chance to celebrate and enjoy the outdoors again.
The Flexicover Team have looked up some of the interesting spring festivals around the world!
Palio di Ferrara, Italy
5th - 27th May 2012
They've been horsing around in Ferrara for over 800 years; in fact, il Paliodi Ferrara is one of the oldest horse races in the world, dating back to the 13th century. Celebrated on the last Sunday of May, crowds flock to the city to watch this amazing spectacle. The race itself is not the only attraction as the palio is also a folk festival throughout May, featuring races and competitions between the eight districts of Ferrara for the banner dedicated to St George, its patron saint. The locals dress up in beautiful period clothing and relax listening to medieval and Renaissance music. Highlights include the Ducal Court procession to the cathedral (May 5th) and the registration of games participants at Estense Castle (May 19th). Some fiesta this!
Lotus Lantern Festival, South Korea
28th May 2012
In many Far East Asian countries, the birthday of the founder of Buddhism is a major celebration. South Korea's annual Lotus Lantern Festival honours this event with a public holiday. At Jogyesa Temple in the capital Seoul, the day begins with religious ceremonies followed by a street fair near the temple, with stalls selling traditional festival foods such as rice balls, dumplings and fish dishes. Children dress up in traditional hanbok clothing and Buddhist priests are resplendent in flowing robes. It's in the evening, though, when the city really comes to life, as dark city streets are bathed in an ocean of brightness! The lantern parade stretches for miles through the heart of Seoul featuring lights of all sizes from the handheld to grand ornate floats bedecked in lights. Let there be light!
Stuttgart Spring Festival, Germany
21st April - 13th May 2012
The Stuttgart Frühlingsfest is said to be the largest spring festival in Europe! Over the course of three weeks there's so much to see and do including fantastic firework displays, oompah bands whilst drinking Stuttgarter Hofbräu (the traditional beer of the city) and even hot air balloon rides. One of the main attractions is a huge funfair with a variety of rides including a 47 metre Ferris wheel and breathtaking roller coaster rides. The highlight has to be the musical firework show on the last Sunday of the festival and attracts record crowds. The 15 minute display lights up the sky over the whole region with flashes, bangs and glitter. A true spectacle if ever there was one!
Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, Thailand
11th - 15th May 2012
Bun Bang Fai is an ancient local festival held over three days in the north-eastern province of Yasothon and is associated with traditional beliefs in the supernatural powers that promote the growth of rice crops in the planting season. The first two days feature teams transporting the rockets in procession amid colourful parades. But the big one is 'Launch Day' where competing rockets are fired from their platforms one by one, in a bid to be the one that reaches the greatest height and be crowned the winner. An average rocket is some 9 metres in length and carries 20-25kg of gunpowder! Whilst competition is fierce, it's all very good-humoured and owners of rockets that explode or fail to fly are thrown in the mud. Sticky business!
May Day at Cerne Abbas, Dorset
1st May 2012
The Cerne Giant or 'Rude Man' is a 180ft carving of a man cut into the chalk bedrock and adorning a hillside to the north of Cerne Abbas, in Dorset. Whilst there is a lot of speculation about its origin, the area has long been marked as a site of significance, with Victorian references suggesting a connection to the Celtic fertility god, Cernunnos, and having the power to help childless women wanting a family. As far as modern traditions go, as dawn breaks on May 1st each year, the Wessex Morris Men dance on the Giant and then work their way back down to dance in the village square, in a flourish of traditional music and bells. This is followed by a well-earned breakfast at a local pub! Join in the fun with the family.
Wherever you decide to travel this spring Flexicover Direct, the travel insurance specialist, is committed to providing the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If you are travelling soon, have a great trip!