What comes to mind when you think of spring? For some, it is the snow gradually disappearing from the ground, the trees starting to regain their vibrant green pigment as the leaves slowly reappear, and the warm sun glistening through our windows in the morning. For others, it’s not having to lug around a heavy coat every day and being excited about finishing school or work so that summer can finally begin. And for all of us, I’m sure, there are widely celebrated traditions and activities that we look forward to every year when spring rolls around.
One of these beloved traditions that occurs during spring is the blooming of the cherry blossoms. If you’re from the US, you might be familiar with the National Mall and Potomac Park in Washington DC, both popular landmarks where the cherry trees begin blooming around this time of year. Other tourist attractions include the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in NYC, the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia, and Branch Brook Park in Belleville, New Jersey. But cherry blossoms are not only celebrated in America. From their origins in Japan, they have since spread throughout other parts of Asia, as well as Canada, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, Spain, and Australia.
But what makes cherry blossoms so special? Is it just about how visually pleasing they are? Or, is there something specific that distinguishes them from other flowers that bloom during springtime? Here are some reasons why cherry blossoms are so intriguing and why people feel so connected to them.
They reunite us with our loved ones.
Around the beginning of April in Japan, it is common for people to have parties and picnics underneath the cherry blossoms. This is formally known as “hamani,” a tradition that is almost a thousand years old and in English, translates to “watching blossoms.” The root “hana” means “flower” and “mi” means “to view.” The beautiful, colorful, and joyful environment created by the cherry blossoms automatically encourages people to leave their houses and bond with the members of their community, even if they are having a bad day.
They symbolize prosperity and give us hope for a brighter future.
In Japanese, cherry blossoms are called “sakura.” It is derived from the root word “saku” which means to smile and laugh, or to bloom, when referring to the flowers. They are regarded as a symbol of rebirth or renewal, a hope that the future will hold better luck for us than the past and present. This is especially true in Japan, as the beginning of April represents the beginning of a new year; students attend their first day of school and many employees start a new job during this time. Therefore, when the cherry blossoms flourish in April, they supposedly replace feelings of doubt and apprehension that people often have about the future with an unyielding sense of optimism about these new milestones that are about to take place in their lives.
They remind us of how short life is and that we must appreciate everything we have.
For centuries, cherry blossoms in Japan have been analogous to human life and what it consists of. However, while they are heavily tied to the positive aspects of life, such as family, friends, and personal success, they are also symbolic of death. Unfortunately, cherry blossom season does not last long because the flowers only have a lifespan of approximately two weeks. Therefore, they remind us of how fleeting life is, which means we should pay extra attention to the gifts and opportunities that we’re given, because they could be taken away at any moment.
So now, when you see these bright pink flowers and trees dispersed around your local park, you’ll understand their significance and hopefully appreciate them even more. They are great for going on walks or bike rides, taking pictures with friends, or even for simply relaxing and clearing your mind, which many of us, including myself, often forget to do. I know these times right now are particularly difficult for everyone, which is why we must take advantage of the things around us that can bring a sense of peace, stability, and happiness, especially if they may not be at our disposal for very long.