Worldwide, March is considered as the month that brings in spring. Out with the old, and in with the new, as the saying goes. It’s no wonder that one’s breath quickens in March, and there’s a spring to one’s step. It’s not so much the reality of spring as the promise of renewal and regeneration after the long death of winter. Throughout the world, the month of March is celebrated with special occasions – fests, events, gatherings and so on. Some of them are quite commonplace while others are quite spectacular! Take the journey with us as we travel through the month of March and its unique celebrations!
India – Holi, Festival of Color
Holi is a colorful festival that’s celebrated in India and in Nepal during the month of March. The date differs each year, based on astrological readings. During this festival, people bathe early, dress all in white, exchange gifts and sweets, and then head out to throw color on each other. It’s a psychedelic experience, with colored powders floating in the air, the white clothing turning blue and red and green! The whole of North India and Nepal look like a madhouse of iridescence!
Holi is conducted with great aplomb in Mathura, Jaipur, Delhi and other cities in North India, along with Kathmandu in Nepal. There are colorful parades, lots of dancing on the streets, music and plenty of drinks! Some people prepare hallucinatory drinks as well, though the law frowns on this practice. It adds to the all-time-high on the streets, though! In Uttarakhand, on Holi day, a procession goes out into the streets in the evening, banging drums and singing devotional songs. In Barsana, the men of the town are beaten playfully with brooms and sticks by their womenfolk! Holi is never dull no matter which part of North India or Nepal you happen to be in at the time.
Mexico – Night of the Witches
On either the 20th or 21st of March, the Night of the Witches or Noche de Brujas as it is known in Mexican, takes place in Cerro Mono Blanco, Catemaco. It’s a dark night when a mob of witches, shamans and magicians from all over Mexico gather together. Together they perform an extensive witchcraft ceremony while watched by crowds of Mexicans, crossing themselves and blessing their loved ones.
Witchcraft has always held such a spell over people through time – part curiosity, part disbelief, part fear. It’s hard to either believe or disbelieve the existence of witchcraft. However, the people of Mexico do believe in witchcraft – they’ve believed in evil and good magic for centuries. The present-day witches’ convention began in 1970 when a local shaman put up the idea that all witches must gather to celebrate witchcraft. So now it is that March hundreds of faith healers, shamans and witches perform ceremonies of mass cleansing to cleanse the previous year’s negative energies.
Of course, needless to say, commercialism will have the final word. You can buy magical amulets and spells from the witches at the convention if you want, along with tarot readings and cleansings, called limpia in Mexican. A full-on black magic ceremony will cost you more.
Japan – Sakura Matsuri
In Japan, spring is when the cherry blossom trees come into flower. The Japanese have a very symbolic relationship with the cherry blossom tree. The blossom of the cherry tree signifies the fragility and the beauty of life. Since the cherry blossom trees blooms only for a short time, the petals form a reminder that life is beautiful but short. The cherry blossom season is locally known as hanami.
Tokyo‘s Ueno park and Aoyama cemetery, especially, are filled with pink and white cherry trees, heralding springtime. During March, the whole of Japan looks pink and white, with the roads and lanes scattered with the fragile petals of the cherry blossom tree. Young girls pose under the cherry blossom wearing beautiful kimonos and getting their pictures taken.
This is the time when the usually fastidious Japanese goes totally mad and gets drunk on sake and beer. People throng to the cherry trees, picnicking and singing under them all day. It’s the time for families and friends to gather and sit and make merry publically until it’s dark and time to go home.
Sydney – Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
If you’re going to be Sydney, Australia, be sure to get to Oxford Street between February to March. The civil rights movement for homosexuals began in Australia in 1978. Today, the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras celebration is seen as one of Australia’s victory celebrations over narrow-mindedness and intolerance.
Thousands of visitors from around the world, especially gays and lesbians, throng to this fest every year. It’s a month of sports, comedy, theatre, film, cabaret, literature and endless parties, all focused on homosexuality and its causes. There’s a side event called Sleaze Ball, when lesbians, gays, transgender, bisexuals and sympathetic watchers wear nipple clamps, don weird hair-dresses and sleazy clothing.
On the final day of the Gay & Lesbian fest, a spectacular, colorful parade marches along Oxford Street. Lesbian Dykes blaze about on their bikes and hundreds of sleazily-dressed replicas of famous people scream themselves hoarse. The police actually join the parade these days in their police vehicles. This festival holds its own as a serious costume event among similar global events, even the New Orleans Mardi Gras. It doesn’t matter how many conservatives try to ban the event or how many stand by the roadsides holding placards. This gay-bonanza continues with aplomb, opening everyone’s eyes to the true cause of its celebration – the freedom to celebrate one’s self, without hindrances.
Valencia, Spain – Las Fallas
Between 15th and 19th March, a strange spring event takes place in Valencia, Spain. There was a time in history when the city’s carpenters would burn wooden wick holders as a welcoming gesture to Spring. Today, thousands of people gather together, parading small and large wooden sculptures through the streets. Thousands of merrymakers dress in their fanciest and dance around to music played by live bands. There are fireworks of all kinds, with professional pyrotechnics and gunpowder blasts punctuating the air and creating more chaos.
The three-day event culminates in a massive bonfire in the center of the town. The heat from the bonfire is so great that the buildings close to it have to be doused with cold water to keep them from catching fire too! The people dance and gyrate on the streets, all night, drinking and partying, all the way until dawn, when the party breaks up.
The world is a fabulously colorful playground of multiple festivals and celebrations. In March, the other significant notable events are the Adelaide Fringe festival and the Amsterdam Museum Night Fever. In Munich, Oktoberfest is a not-to-miss event. If you look through a global event calendar, you’ll find that literally every month is dotted with a great and surprising event somewhere or the other. If you’re planning to travel internationally, it might be a good idea to look up festivals and events and make your travel plans accordingly.