The arrival of cherry blossoms signals the end of chilly winter weather in Japan. The blossoms appear first in Kyushu around the end of March and spread northward as the weather warms, reaching Tokyo in early April and Hokkaido in mid-May. The three main weather bureaus issue forecasts of where the "cherry-blossom front" is moving, and newspapers report the process from first flowering to full bloom.
People celebrate the flowering of cherry blossoms by moving outdoors - holding hanami picnics under the trees. These gatherings can be outings with family members, friends, or colleagues. At nighttime, people bring along beer, sake, and even karaoke sets with them to hold cheerful, often rowdy parties.
The Japanese like cherry blossoms because the shape and color of the petals reflect people's ideal notions of purity and simplicity. They are also touched by the blossoms that are so fragile and short-lived, scattering just a few days after they flower. Every time there is the slightest breeze, a shower of cherry-blossom petals is produced.
Diwali is perhaps the most well-known of the Hindu festivals.
The word Diwali means 'rows of lighted lamps'. Diwali is known as the 'festival of lights' because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas
For many Indians this five day festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. People start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say prayers to the goddess for a successful year. Lamps are lit to help Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, find her way into people's homes.
In Britain, as in India, the festival is a time for:
* spring-cleaning the home,
* wearing new clothes
* exchanging gifts (often sweets and dried fruits) and preparing festive meals
* decorating buildings with fancy lights.
* huge firework displays often celebrate Divali.
In India Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open so that Lakshmi can come in. Rangoli are drawn on the floors - rangoli are patterns and the most popular subject is the lotus flower.