From time to time I like to comment on bizarre but entertaining aspects of culture that can be found around the world . Today I was chatting with an online penpal of mine from an obscure part of Russia, the Republic of Kalmykia, and she commented that one of her favorite times of the year was their Overwintering festival, which takes place soon. Her words about the festival are strikingly poetic: “That’s a great feeling to overwinter, remove warm coats, jackets, the smell of coming spring, long hikings.” To be sure, the English is not perfect, but the sentiment can certainly be very easily understood, and one can clearly gather why someone living in an obscure corner of Russia would want to celebrate the coming of spring. Little mystery is required to gather the appeal of such a festival, even if it is hard to find details about the festival online.
My own feelings about this winter in particular are also not mysterious to anyone . After such a winter as we have had, with several weeks of dealing with snow and people who have no clue how to deal with winter weather, I think that the Portland area could borrow an idea from the Kalmyk people and celebrate an overwinter festival. After all, we have borrowed the idea of yurts from the Mongols (from whom the Kalmyks are descended). Why not borrow a festival that celebrates the return of warmth and life, the smell of fresh grass, enjoying hikes, and so on? This seems like it would be a fairly straightforward sort of matter to enjoy, not only here in the land of the hipsters, but in areas where the winter was even worse consistently, even if such areas were less fond of odd things like alpacas and Mongol mobile homes than we are here in the Pacific Northwest.
So, since we are an odd area that is fairly accepting of eccentric but entertaining cultural traditions from the rest of the world, I would like to make a proposal for my fellow citizens of the Pacific Northwest. First, let us explore what sort of end-of-winter traditions exist around the world, especially those which are free of heathen religious symbolism (no May poles, for example), and see if any such ideas, like taking nature hikes around our area’s fine parks and other wilderness areas, can be adapted. I cannot say that finding out more about these traditions will be easy, since the Republic of Kalmykia and its traditions are not high on the priority list of Russia to share with the wider world at large, but at least it gives something to do while we wait for the weather to warm up a bit and hope to enjoy a more seasonable pattern of weather than we have had so far this winter. At any rate, it’s better than complaining about the weather as is a frequent occurrence.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: