Ostara is one of the many names for the celebration of the spring equinox. It is said to come from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, who was a goddess of spring and fertility. It is also close to the Christian celebration of Easter, and the Jewish festival of Passover.
It is not surprising that a celebration can be found at this time of year in almost every civilisation, fro ancient Persia and the Mayan civilizations to the more modern religion of Christianity. The turning of the Wheel of the Year is obvious, and the returning of life in the spring is too powerful a symbol not to be recognised.
Here are a few examples of how this exciting time of the year is celebrated around the world.
Marzanna – Poland
This is a celebration which dates back to around the middle of the 16th century. Dolls known as Marzanna are made of straw and decorated in order to symbolize the cold, dreary winter. They are then paraded through the street as crowds make their way to the nearest body of water. The decorated dolls are then thrown into the water in order to drown the wrath of the winter.
Baba Marta – Bulgaria
Baba Marta literally translates to ‘the grandmother of March’, and folklore says that Baba Marta is a cranky old lady who must be treated well and with kindness, or she will bring more cold, bleak winter days to torment the land.
In order to welcome the change of the season, people wear red and white bracelets which symbolise health and fertility. They hand out other red and white symbols to friends and family to wish them peace and happiness for the rest of the year.
Holi – India
The colourful festival of Holi takes place in late February or early March. The festival was originally a Hindu tradition, but it is now seen as more a cultural celebration than a religious one.
Holi ushers in the spring with bonfires and parties the night before the festival itself. The next day, people gather on the streets for a giant colour fight, with people through dyed powder onto each other. It offers a chance to let go of the cares and hardships of winter and to reconnect with other people.
Falles – Spain
The population of Valencia in Spain almost triples in size during the annual Falles festival in March. It is a week-long spectacle of fiery, satirical entertainment which starts with processions in order to honour Saint Joseph and ends with the mass burning of paper-mache figures filled with firecrackers.
It is not uncommon for those attending these celebrations to wear medieval clothing, and the entire week is accompanied by a huge street party.