Celebrating Spring!

From the writing desk of Christine Mazurk

The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and I'm happy I can run the park in a short sleeved shirt. Spring is here! My favorite time of year. As I drive down Wydown to get my Cinnamon Dulce Latte, I gaze at the trees lining the road. Cherry Blossoms...

They bring to mind the avenue in Washington DC and the celebrations in Japan, which got me thinking about the history of such celebrations.

The Japanese turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom. Hanami is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming cherry tree and has become an annual event drawing people from all over the world.

The cherry blossoms symbolize clouds because of their nature of blooming en masse. The transience of the blossoms, the extreme beauty and quick death, has often been associated with mortality. For this reason, cherry blossoms are richly symbolic and have been utilized often in Japanese art.

Japan has a wide variety of cherry blossoms; well over 200 species can be found there. The most popular variety is the Somei Yoshino. Its flowers are nearly pure white, tinged with the palest pink, especially near the stem. They bloom and usually fall within a week, before the leaves come out.

Japan gave 3,020 cherry blossom trees to the Untied States as a gift in 1912 to celebrate the nations' then-growing friendship, replacing an earlier gift of 2000 trees which had to be destroyed due to disease in 1910. The trees were planted in Sakura Park in Manhattan and line the shore of the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. The first two original trees were planted by the first lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda on the bank of the Tidal Basin. The gift was renewed with another 3800 trees in 1965. In Washington DC, the cherry blossom trees continue to be a popular tourist attraction - and the subject of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival - when they reach full bloom in early spring.

Other US cities have an annual Cherry Blossom Festival, including the International Cherry blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia, which features over 300,000 cherry trees. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York City also has a well-attended festival. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the site of the peace conference that produced the Treaty of Portsmouth, for which the original Washington, DC cherry trees were given in thanks. Several of the trees planted on the bank of the tidal pond next to Portsmouth City Hall were the gift of Portsmouth's Japanese sister city of Nichinan.

I think it's time for a coffee break. I'm going to head down Wydown so I can celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossoms before they fall. What will you do to celebrate Spring?

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