Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Rites of Spring

In Israel, due the vagaries of the Jewish lunar calendar, Purim has come and gone.  Aside from being one of the rare Jewish holidays with no sadness or restrictions (letting go is the rule, actually), it marks the unofficial end of the short three month winter here. 

In the next month, despite an occasional rainfall, the signs of spring will be felt.  Outside, calaniot (anemones) and pregim (poppies) will be joined by countless other spring flowers.  The Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the national water reserve, reaches its high water point before it becomes depressing low again.  In countless Jewish houses, women, grudgingly helped by their mates and children, start the grueling spring cleaning that culminates in a spotless house just before Pesach, for religious reasons of course.  On the shoe front, starting with the younger women, winter boots of all kinds are placed in their summer storage places to be joyfully replaced by new or not so new open sandals.  For better or for worse, the smell of meat on barbecues becomes ever more common.  The sun is pleasant, with the nights being a tad cool.  Alas, the Israeli spring quickly melts under the summer sun, but it has to be enjoyed while it lasts.

The United States also its spring rites.  Aside from a badger, groundhog, or some other animal seeing its shadow, the usual sign is the opening of the baseball season and the Memorial Day.   Of course, the formal date does not always mean that winter has ended.  Having danced several times at the Folklife festival in Seattle, Washington, I can attest that the end of May often does not mean the end of the rain.  Still, in most parts of the country, the snow has melted while the humidity has not reached 90% yet.  As I once read, this season in Montreal is called le temps de lilas, the time of lilacs, the short period when it is neither freezing nor sickeningly hot.

In France, spring is signaled by Paques, Easter, and its accompanying extended holiday.  My father has a theory that French workers work, all 35 hours a week, between holidays.  In May in France, this is quite true.  Most curiously, the centralized heating in many French houses goes off sometime in May as if the winter is over.  This is one of the “wrongs” of spring.

As you see, I have strivinskied to describe the end of winter in places I have lived. If you live in a country has special spring rites, I would like to hear.

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