“It’s dopamine.”, explains science. Now we finally know why spring makes us euphoric and all giddy with joy. Completely unconscious of chemical process in our body, we still get to feel the enticement and even light vertigo at the very sight of fluffy tree blossoms, breathing in their lovely light scent or listening to the many facets of night birds’ songs from their branches.
Spring stands for novelty and this is the very trigger for such a powerful dopamine release. We expect, we anticipate, we sense new things coming our way.
No wonder this marvellous season has always held a significant place in history and culture worldwide as a beacon of imminent change. Ever since the ancient times, spring celebrations have been widely popular with people of all religions and society strata. To this day, such events remain deeply seated in our culture. Some of them will definitely put you in a good mood, whether you’re under dopamine spell or not.
British spring traditions, naturally, overlap with those of other European countries. Some are, however, typically British and attract a tremendous number of spectators or even participants.
Victorian times tried to curb bawdy behaviour and in these attempts many traditions were wiped off. Glorious modern times have brought about their revival and today we can see strange looking garlands, cheerful and perhaps a bit tipsy, moving around during the May Bank Holiday. Meet Jack in the green, a walking garland in the size of a man. Hurry up as he’s just about to walk his last walk before he gets “slain” in the ruins of an old castle on the top of a hill in Hastings.
Well dressing never goes out of fashion, particularly in England. A typically British tradition of mysterious origins can only be found in remote Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Local hills and dales are probably to blame as to why the custom hasn’t spread any further. The ancient practice is believed to have its roots in Celtic customs and beliefs.
Well dressing starts in May and involves decorating wells, springs and water taps with flowers, berries and seeds. A wooden board is soaked in water for several days. Such a wet board will be a canvas for a team of locals who will then etch images using flowers and all parts of living plants. A well is usually “dressed” only for a week or rather until the flowers dry out.
As half the world goes into sugar overload during big style carnivals on Mardi Gras, the British have their own way of doing it. They flip pancakes on the run, literally. The Shrove Tuesday pancake race is extremely popular in Buckinghamshire where it’s been celebrated since 1445. Every year women compete in running with a frying pan in their hands. The rules are quite strict – only women in scarves and aprons can compete and pancakes must be flipped at the start and the finish. Sometimes the first rule can be bent and men can participate, too. There is, however, a condition to fulfil. They have to dress up as housewives – usually an apron and a bandanna will do.
Things can get cheesy in Gloucestershire in May when the annual festival of Cheese Rolling treats spectators with a great show. A piece of cheese shaped as a wheel is pushed down the hill with a head start of one second. Cheese chasers’ main goal is to catch the rolling cheese so they start racing or even rolling down the steep hill. Injuries are a common thing but the event is said to be quite much fun nevertheless.
Let’s welcome spring and its sun-kissed days rediscovering lovely Britain. Fun is guaranteed!