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As the northern hemisphere rolls over into spring, we’ve spanned the UK to Mexico to track down the best happenings to mark the moment.
Whether you’re a full-blown Druid, a part-time witch or quite simply an earthy type who lives for farm-to-table, ink 20 March in your Google Calendar. Spring equinox is on its way, bringing with it not only the onset of spring to the northern hemisphere (finally, longer days and warmer weather), but also a slew of festivities and hokey Pagan rituals.
Equinox isn’t one of those festivals that screams for attention: it’s all-natural, spiritual and uncommercialised (so far, that is). While we’re not swapping in our Easter bank holidays just yet, in this era of heightened eco-consciousness with the Earth spluttering through the most polluted era in her lifespan, we’re all for celebrating the changing of the seasons in New Age style.
Unsure where to begin? We’ve rounded up the best places to see in the new season, from high jinks at Stonehenge to the flaming Fallas festival in Valencia. Bury winter, welcome spring and vibe check the Earth on these minibreaks where age-old traditions run deep.
WHY: Gather around the centuries-old stone circle as equinox dawns. Bring a torch and arrive at this prehistoric settlement before sunrise: once the sun’s up, the festivities begin. Expect to find Druids, witches and plenty of flower crowns – not those polyester excuses you might see come June when Glastonbury Festival rocks up, but frothy, all-natural masterpieces – at the monument, as well as in the nearby towns of Salisbury and Amesbury later in the day. A ragtag bunch of people from all backgrounds typically gather: some chant, which is perhaps a bit much if you don’t identify as a full-on Pagan. We recommend bringing your dog (or borrowing one) and taking a long lap of the plains before settling down for a bountiful lunch at The Chapter House.
TO STAY: The Chapter House
WHY: Grab your (figurative) pitchfork and take part in a Marzanna procession. Building, dressing, parading and then drowning a titanic, flaming effigy of an ancient Slavic Goddess? All in a day’s work for those in Poland when spring equinox rolls around. In old Slavic texts, the death of the Goddess Marzanna at the end of winter signals the rebirth of Kostroma, another deity who represents spring – hence the drowning of Marzanna. Though today this ritual is more of a fun spectacle than anything else. Naturally, the rustic villages in Poland’s countryside take it a little more seriously, but you can catch these folksy processions all over the place: we’re pitching up at Wawel Castle in Krakow.
TO STAY: Hotel Stary
WHY: Las Fallas festival erupts in the city centre. This one’s the least folksy but the most vivacious spot on our equinox radar. Expect gargantuan puppets, fireworks, spontaneous street parties and killer Spanish street food when the four-day Las Fallas festival erupts in Valencia. What was once a Catholic feast day for St Joseph accompanied by bonfires to signify the end of winter has become a no-holds-barred party and a platform for Spanish artists to meditate on national identity through the medium of colossal figurines.
TO STAY: Barracart Apartments
WHY: It’s one of the times of the year the Mnajdra temples come alive. We might ogle at each new Olympic stadium and lust over David Chipperfield’s so-harsh-they’re-beautiful concrete edifices, but you’ve got to hand it to the architects of prehistory. As the sun rises on the morning of the spring equinox, light cascades into the central corridor of the ancient, Mnajdra temple complex in Malta. It’s a natural phenomenon that only happens twice a year – on the spring and autumn equinoxes – and is just one of the many genius architectural devices that continues to confound archaeologists who still struggle to pin down the settlement’s origins.
TO STAY: Rosselli
Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
WHY: Down margaritas at the ancient Aztec megalith, Chichén Itzá. Yet another architectural marvel. Every year at the spring equinox crowds gather at the foot of this monumental Aztec pyramid to observe the late afternoon sun rippling down its geometric façade like a snake. Naturally, a party erupts shortly after which attracts everyone from folksy dance troupes to rock bands to free-frolicking New Age types. If you’re really committed, make like a local and don your best all-white outfit: Aztecs believed a sparkling white get-up would shun evil spirits and attract positive energy from the sun.
WHY: Maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Greater solar activity around the time of the equinox (either in spring or autumn) means those who’ve hunkered down in a glass-topped “igloo” for the night are more likely to catch the Aurora Borealis than at other times of the year. No sightings guaranteed, of course.
TO STAY: Arctic Treehouse Hotel
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