Celebrate the change of seasons with a virtual Spring Festival!

Spring Fest Picture2

Learn about making Mandalas like the one above and many other spring traditions from around the during the Washington State Parks Folk and Traditional Arts Program's first virtual Spring Festival event!

May 18, 2021

As trees blossom and flowers bloom, as bears come out of hibernation and birds chirp at daybreak, humans, too, meet spring with hope and celebration. The change is particularly palpable in states with pronounced seasons – such as Washington.

In that vein, the Washington State Parks Folk and Traditional Arts Program and NorthWest Share invite you to participate in our first-ever virtual Spring Festival

This free, family-friendly event celebrates the diverse rites of spring in our state. Festivities take place from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 22. 

Enjoy workshops, discussions, demonstrations and performances by Cambodian, Hindi, Persian, Cowlitz Indian and Senegalese artists and educators who call Washington home.

Tune in for the full virtual program. Or visit our Folk & Traditional Arts Program’s YouTube playlist at your convenience for individual segments.

New Years in April? Why yes! -- Khmer New YearA poster for a dance troupe featuring many people in Cambodian traditional dance wear.

Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei marks one of Cambodia’s most important holidays. 

Cambodians, including Washingtonians of Cambodian heritage, celebrate the end of harvest season in mid-April, which coincides with the solar new year.

Tacoma-based Cambodian performing arts troupe Khemarak Samaki (Cambodian Unity) Classical Group preserves Cambodian cultural arts through classical and folk dance demonstrations and theatre. 

The group will perform a prayer dance and Thivet dance to celebrate Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei.

Photo: Promotional poster courtesy of Khemarak Samaki.

Onam and the art of mandala making

Mandala is Sanskrit for "circle" and is a spiritual symbol in several Eastern religions and cultural traditions. In this segment, Latha Sambamurti, a Washington State Arts commissioner, shares the traditional Hindu legend behind the celebration of Onam.

The circular design symbolizes interconnectedness and the never-ending cycle of life. 

The springtime flower mandala (pookalam) tradition is an important ritual in celebrating Onam, a holiday celebrated in Kerala, southern India. The ritual involves Kaikottikali, a traditional dance performed by ornately dressed women around the flower mandala.

Seattle visual and performing artist Annie Penta specializes in participatory pookalam — making with fresh flowers and greenery. Don’t miss this cool demonstration!

See feature photo of a springtime Mandala at the top of this blog.

Spring Equinox = New Years (Nowruz) in Iran An altar covered in various fruits, flowers and sprouting legumes in bowls

Persians celebrate Nowruz, or New Years, over 13 days, starting on the spring equinox. 

Nowruz means “New Day” in classical Persian.

At the end of the holiday, a day called Sizdah Bedar, families spend time in nature. They decorate altars known as Haft-sin and host fire festivities and dances.  

Many Persian families celebrate Sizdah Bedar at Lake Sammamish State Park (often with music, food and dance). 

The Iranian American Community Alliance (IACA) presents the celebration of Nowruz. They will showcase the elements of a Haft-Sin altar and do two cooking demonstrations – a fish dish and a delicious dessert. Follow IACA on Instagram @iaca-seattle, or Facebook  IACA Seattle.

Photo: A traditional Nowruz Haft-sin.  

Vishu —  manifesting abundance at New YearAn altar covered in vegetables and fruits

Vishu is a New Year’s celebration observed in mid-April in Kerala, India, by the Malayali people, as well as by Malayli immigrants and descendants in the Pacific Northwest. 

Customs include preparing a display called vishukkani with fruits, vegetables, flowers, gold and silver coins, and a traditional lamp in front of a mirror. 

Vishukkani translates to “that which is seen first on Vishu.” Malayalis believe the year’s good fortune is sealed by seeing the auspicious vishukkani first thing Vishu morning. 

What follows is Vishu Sadhya, an elaborate feast prepared and served on a plantain leaf. 

Deepthi Sunder Rajan was born in Wayanad, Kerala, India, and lives in the Seattle area. She will explain the vishukkani and share some traditional foods eaten on the holiday. Follow Deepti on Instagram: @new_age_amma

Photo: A traditional vishukkani.

Holi – more than paint-throwing A row of puppets

An ancient Hindu religious festival, Holi is celebrated in mid to late March in India, Nepal and around the world where Indian people have migrated — including a robust community in western Washington.

The holiday is known for the colorful paint powders and dye-infused water that people throw at each other in play. 

Holi celebrates the blossoming of life, love and forgiveness. It is one of the few times of the year when people of many religions, genders, ages, ethnicities and castes unite in play.

Hindus also gather the evening before Holi to hold bonfires. This symbolic burning of Holika’s pyre recognizes the triumph of good over evil. Nighttime gatherings include music, dance, special foods, friends and family.

The Dancing Peacock Puppet Company will present a puppet show retelling the Hindu legend behind Holi. The company, a part of the Love to Share Foundation of America, uses traditional and string puppetry to narrate stories from East Indian classics.

 Photo : Hindu puppets.

Springtime in SenegalSpring Fest Picture6

Senegal celebrates its Independence Day April 4, which coincides with Dakar’s spring festival. 

Artists from throughout Africa come to Dakar to display their art in galleries and venues across Senegal.

Thione Diop a percussionist from Senegal, descends from an ancestral line of Griot drummers and is a master of the dikembe, sabar, tama and djun djun. 

Thione Diop and friends from Senegal will present a musical performance celebrating spring.  

Photo: Thione Diop.

Camas Harvest – eating localPurple flowers

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s Cultural Resources staff demonstrate a traditional harvest and preparation of camas.

Camas is a lily-like plant with an edible bulb that thrives in prairie ecosystems and is traditionally harvested by several native American tribes, particularly in southwest Washington, in late spring. When roasted in an earthen oven, camas bulbs develop a mildly sweet flavor and are rich in carbohydrates and protein.  

This plant is an important resource, a key first food for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and other tribes living in the Pacific Northwest.

Photo: Camas flowers.

But wait...there's more!

State Parks interpreters Alysa Adams and Leah Garner will lead a program marking the arrival of spring in the natural world. Parks interpreter Joy Kacoroski will present a program about urban wildlife habitats and invite viewers to join her in making a habitat crown.