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Celebrating Phenology

Updated on March 28, 2016

Traditions of celebration and ritual are integral to human culture. They may have started with our ancestors' attempts to ensure that the great Wheel of Time would keep turning, to that end lighting bonfires in the cold depths of winter in order to "call back the sun" so that it will warm the land and bring forth life-giving crops.


Eventually, humankind discovered that the Wheel turns independently of our bonfires, prayers and propitiations.

And yet...

Even though the rodent's shadow fails to accurately predict the week of spring's arrival, even though the relationship of the vernal frolic of bunnies to the resurrection of Christ is tenuous, even though that same Christ's birth would not be near the Winter Solstice if, as the stories tell, shepherds were watching their flocks, we continue to celebrate our beloved annual festivals, feasts and holidays.

Must be in our DNA

What's your preference: festival, feast, or holiday?

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What's this got to do with phenology?

Celebrations can be of natural as well as cultural events. Besides birthdates of individuals or countries, besides commemorations of discoveries, laws, human breakthroughs...

we also celebrate:

maple syrup
pumpkin harvests
cherry tree blossoms
autumn leaf turnings
butterfly migrations

and other phenological events occurring each year in the world of nature

Here is just a small sampling of festivals worldwide:

show route and directions
A markerSefrou, Morocco -
Sefrou, Morocco
get directions

Cherry harvest

B markerKanzalak, Bulgaria -
Kazanluk, Bulgaria
get directions

Rose festival

C markerChaiyaphum, Thailand -
Chaiyaphum, Thailand
get directions

Blooming Krachiao Flower Festival

D markerBali -
Bali, Indonesia
get directions

Rice harvest festival

E markerMelbourne, Australia -
Melbourne VIC, Australia
get directions

tulip and lavender festivals

F markerKyoto, Japan -
Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
get directions

Hanami Cherry Blossom festival

G markerHorsefly, Canada -
Horsefly, BC V0K, Canada
get directions

River Salmon festival

H markerEugene, Oregon -
Eugene, OR, USA
get directions

Truffle festival

I markerHolland, Michagan -
Holland, MI, USA
get directions

Tulip Time

J markerMendoza, Argentina -
Mendoza, Capital Department, Mendoza Province, Argentina
get directions

Grape harvest

These and many more can be found on

When's your birthday?

Celebrate what's going on outside in nature near you! Do you have a special fondness for a particular plant in bloom, bird you hear, tree bearing fruit or animal you encounter at that time of year? It's fun to explore their symbolism, in books, on the web, or just use your own intuition...

At first glance, Andrews' books do seem pretty new-agey, and some of them are, but here and in Animal Speak he gives scientific information on the species, then relates that to psychology. Don't take his or anyone else's word as gospel, of course. Nature's signs and messages, like dreams, are interpreted variously.

If you're not that into folklore or symbolism (and even if you are) nothing beats a good local Field Guide for learning more about what you've observed on your birthday or any other time.

Maybe your birthday falls on a saint's day. Saints often have a plant or animal associated with them, and weather lore. Here are a few examples:

Jan 22: If St. Vincent's has sunshine, one hopes much rye and wine.
Feb 24: If St. Matthias does not break the ice, he has lost his axe, and the ice will remain unbroken till St. Joseph comes.
Mar 19/25: St Joseph's/Mary's clear, fertile will be the year.
April 21: St Anselm protected a hare, was obeyed by dogs.
May 11, 12, 13: Three Chilly Saints. Three days of cold weather
Jun 11: On St. Barnabus Day the sun comes to stay.
Jul 15: Rain on St Swithin's day means forty days more rain.
Aug 24: St. Barthomew's day fair and clear, a prosperous autumn to be had this year.
Sep 30: St. Jerome helped an injured lion and afterwards it is said that the lion never left his side.
Oct 18: St Luke's Little Summer, a period of warm weather following the cold.
Nov 25: Winter begins on St. Catherine's day.
Dec 31: St Sylvester resurrected a bull and is a patron of domestic animals.

A riddle for you:

Embedded in our technogical age, there remains an ancient artifact, [a] strange survivor [that] still recalls an ancient way [that] has, over many centuries, woven...festivals, observances, customs...into a tapestry...It is called the...

Next up:

Celebrating Phenology, pt. 2

the answer to the riddle


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      Helen Park 2 years ago

      Thank you, Sparrowlet, I'm glad you like it. Trying to turn more people on to phenology, not many even know what it is.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Coool! Never thought of celebrations in this way. I guess there are many such celebrations that go on all the time. Now is the Cherry Blossom time in Washington DC that thousands of tourist flock to see! Interesting hub, liked it very much.