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A man and a woman made out of flowers on a float during a Bloemencorso Bollenstreek precession

6 weird spring traditions from around the world

Springtime is responsible for inspiring folk to indulge in some peculiar behaviour, though we’ll begin with one that has a rather nasty twist in its tale and end with a frankly barking offering from Scotland.

Image: The Dutch Bloemencorso Bollenstreek (flower parade) is a floral celebration of spring |

1. Marzanna (Poland) - 21st March

Marzanna is the Slovak Goddess of winter, so setting fire to an effigy of her and then chucking it into a river is the basis of Poland’s spring festivities. For your own safety, you mustn’t touch her when she’s in the water, nor should you look behind you as you walk away because you might catch something nasty…

Seeped in pagan belief, the idea behind the destruction of Marzanna is to see off winter and kick in springtime. These days, Marzanna is a doll made of straw which has been wrapped in colourful linen, decorated and then paraded around town before she meets her fate. However, in the Middle Ages, Marzanna might well have been a real person, lest we forget that between 1400 and the end of the 1700s as many as 60,000 women were executed in Europe for witchcraft.

2. Bloemencorso Bollenstreek (The Netherlands) - 20th/21st April

On a much lighter note, the Dutch Bloemencorso Bollenstreek (flower parade) is a floral celebration of spring. Held every April, the citizens of Holland adorn floats and their cars with the likes of daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. They are then accompanied by marching bands as they show off their displays to appreciative hoards.

There is no specific theme to Bloemencorso Bollenstreek, organisers can pretty much do as they wish so long as it involves flowers. It attracts millions of spectators and you can even buy tickets to enjoy the action from the comfort of a grandstand along the 25-mile (40-kilometre) route from Noordwijk Beach to the city of Haarlem.

But don’t be looking around for some pagan backstory, Bloemencorso Bollenstreek only began in 1947 when Willem Warmenhoven, an amaryllis grower from Hillegom, created a blue whale out of hyacinths to the obvious delight of the locals.

3. Baba Marta (Bulgaria) - 1st March

‘Baba’ means grandma and ‘Marta’ means March, so Granny March is where we’re at with this Bulgarian Festival to celebrate spring, which is notably a few weeks off. We can see Baba Marta as a metaphor for the unsettled nature of this time of year: she is portrayed as an erratic old woman, at once smiling and friendly, then quickly depressed and even hostile.

What the festival has to do with Pizho and Penda, the two cute little dolls that are represented by ‘Martenitsa’ (red and white yarn that’s been twisted and decorated), becomes clear when we learn that Martenitsas are given to friends and family in the hope they will cheer up Baba Marta. This should bring out the sunshine until the first blossoms signal the start of spring.

4. Cimburijada (Bosnia and Herzegovina) - 19th March

Eggs have long been a symbol of re-birth and for centuries many cultures have centred their spring festivities around the not-so-humble organic vessel.

One such festival takes place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically Zenica and Cimburijada, which literally means ‘festival of scrambled eggs’. At dawn on the morning of Cimburijada, the good citizens head down to the Bosna River to scramble loads of eggs which they enjoy with friends and family. It’s an all-day party to celebrate the first day of spring with loads of traditional music, dancing and maybe the odd glass of Rakija.

5. Songkran Water Festival (Thailand) - 13th-15th April

If you’re in Thailand for Songkran on 13th April then you’re just in time for the start of a massive three-day water fight. But why do the Thais take time out of their day to focus on soaking their friends and neighbours?

Songkran (from the Sanskrit meaning ‘astrological passage’) symbolises washing away the past in preparation for the new and it’s been a tradition for centuries. It has its roots in Buddhism where it's customary for worshippers to pour water on the hands of the temple monks; at some point in time a few devotees thought it jolly to carry on the celebrations in the street and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s especially popular in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok, so if you’re passing through any of the cities on the dates noted above, you’re going to get soaked!

6. Whuppity Scoorie – 1st March

We’ll conclude with a peculiar little event not much known outside of Lanarkshire, Scotland, and it might be the weirdest spring tradition on the list. It dates from around the 19th century, though no one seems to know exactly when or why it started, yet it adheres to a very strict schedule. It begins with a large group of wee bairns gathering at 6pm at the foot of the steeple at Lanark Cross on the evening of 1st March, armed with balls of paper on a string.

At the noted hour, a small bell that has been dormant since the previous autumn is rung, and the kids, swinging the balls of paper over their heads, run clockwise, three times, around St Nicholas’ church before belting over to an adjacent venue to receive some small change.