Dual Language Schools: Biliteracy Word of the WeekSpring Around the World

03/2019
Author Photo: Velázquez Press

Spring evokes new beginnings. It is the end of winter and the beginning of life. Spring, which usually falls around the nineteenth to the twenty-first of March in the Northern Hemisphere, is also the vernal equinox, when the Earth's axis tilts so that the Equator is directly facing the Sun. Because of this astronomical phenomenon, from this point on, the days become longer, the weather gets warmer as the Northern Hemisphere begins to tilt toward the Sun, providing more sunshine. Snow begins to melt, which allows rivers to flow with fresh water from the mountains; and plants, trees, and flowers begin to bloom.

Ancient cultures around the world began the cycle of the year at spring. Using astronomy, every new year began at the equinox, when night and day were equal in duration. The Persian calendar used in Iran and other Iranian cultures begin the year exactly when the sun crosses the celestial equator, which means that spring, or bahār—بهار, has begun and so has the new year, Nowruz—نوروز‎. Nowruz, which means 'new day' in Persian, is celebrated as a national holiday, not only in Iran, but also in other countries where Persian culture has had a significant presence. It is typical to find a table displaying symbols that represent spring, renewal, and good luck for the coming year.

In India, spring, or vasant—वसंत, is also the beginning of the year according to the National Calendar of India. Although there is no new year celebration, Holi—होली, which will fall the day after spring this year, is the holiday that marks the beginning of spring in India and it's known as the holiday of love, where people throw colored powders on each other symbolizing the hope that the following year will be full of color and life like spring.

In China, the vernal equinox is called Chūnfēn—春分, or mid-spring, since the "spring" season began at Chinese New Year, which usually falls anywhere from late January to late February.

In some cultures, the arrival of spring is less astronomical and more agricultural. In Ancient Israel, the spring season did not begin until the ripening of barley grains, which was called 'ābīb in Classical Hebrew, which gave Modern Hebrew the word for spring, aviv—אביב.

In German, spring is called Frühling, from the word früh, meaning 'early', perhaps because it was the "early", or the first, season of the agricultural year. An earlier word for spring in German was Lenz, which is a cognate of the English Lent, the period when Christians abstained from food, drink, and other activities. This period before Easter was probably called Lent because it happened exactly around when spring would begin. Lenz and Lent ultimately come from Proto-Germanic *langatīnaz meaning 'long day', in reference to the first day of spring, when the days begin to become longer. In Old English, spring was called lencten, from the same Proto-Germanic word. By the sixteenth century, spring was replaced lencten to the season because it was the season when plants and flowers would "spring", or bloom.

Although we began a new year in January, the beginning of spring makes us have a sense of renewal. Shedding away the winterwear, putting away the rainboots, or simply going outside and see nature change before our eyes as birds begin to chirp, bees start buzzing, flowers begin to bloom, and the sun finally emerges from the clouds as these banish. It makes sense, then, to begin the year in spring. After all, who wouldn't like to start the year smelling roses?

Sources:
http://www.payvand.com/news/09/mar/1210.html
http://knowindia.gov.in/national-identity-elements/national-calendar.php
https://www.etymonline.com/word/spring#etymonline_v_24372