Some believe that they are a representation of the ephemeral nature of life, an aspect of the Buddhist tradition. Others consider them to be a symbol of mortality as they move quickly from a full bloom to death. For many, they are simply a representation of the Japanese culture and spirit.
No matter what you believe, you can’t argue with the fact that cherry blossoms, no matter the size or color, are breathtakingly beautiful and are nature’s way of letting the world know that winter is over and spring has arrived.
Cherry Blossom celebrations started in Japan in the Nara Period (710-774) when the elite of the Imperial court would picnic under the blooming trees. This act, called Hanami, was a way to celebrate the beauty of the flowers while eating and drinking sake. It didn’t take long for this practice to spread to the samurai and by the end of the Edo period (1860s), the common people were participating in the celebrations as well.
very year, around the end of February, the Japanese Meteorological Agency begins tracking the ‘cherry blossom front’ in order to ensure that the country wide festivals will be timed perfectly. Buds usually appear on the trees in mid March and can bloom anywhere between then and the end of May. Interestingly, most schools and public buildings in Japan have Cherry Blossom trees planted right outside of them and since their fiscal and school years start in April, the first day of work or school often coincides with the festivals.
Though celebrating these tiny, short-lived flowers originated in Japan, countries all over the world now have trees and festivals of their own. The United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Turkey and The Netherlands have elaborate parks and orchards full of the trees while Washington DC in the USA and Vancouver, Canada host massive city-wide celebrations. South Korea and China also have small celebrations of their own and even in far-away Brazil, Cherry Blossom trees can be viewed in full bloom.
It is interesting to note that these trees do not produce ANY fruit. They have been cultivated to be ornamental and when their stunning blossoms die, unlike other fruit trees, they leave nothing behind but shriveled petals.