4 Global Family Traditions to Inspire Your Patio Decor
All around the world, spring is the season for new beginnings and getting back outside, making it the perfect time to refresh your outdoor space and establish new family traditions along the way. To gain inspiration for my own family-friendly outdoor refresh, I looked to spring traditions from across the globe. Not only did I find ideas for rejuvenating my patio’s furniture and accessories, I found four ancient and meaningful customs that provided the basis for a spring celebration with my family.
Come with me around the world as we explore these four international spring celebrations, and see how they can be woven into your springtime activities, inspire you to create a welcoming outdoor space and spark treasured moments with your family for years to come.
Meaning “new day,” Nowruz is a 13-day Persian celebration of the spring equinox, welcoming nature and its rebirth. As Azita Mehran, New Yorker and Iranian author of Turmeric & Saffron, tells us, “Nowruz is a time for Iranians to come together with their families and celebrate the Persian New Year.”
Traditional preparations for Nowruz include a thorough spring cleaning, both inside and out, and bathing the home in fresh-cut spring flowers. After all the hard work is finished, families celebrate with a “Haft-Seen” spread. A symbolic feast, the Haft-Seen features seven dishes that begin with the letter S.
The prospect of a yummy feast motivated my family to spruce up our outdoor patio and get it ready for springtime. We used the key components of this Iranian custom as inspiration to lay the groundwork for a fresh outdoor space—from leaf-blowing the patio floor to cleaning out the flower beds and planters to wiping down the furniture.
According to interior designer Kerrie Kelly, maintenance is key to keeping outdoor furniture in good shape all season long. “Wipe it down weekly to keep it looking fresh and new,” she advises. “Opt for cushions and pillows with zipper closures to easily throw covers into the washer. Outdoor fabric is performance fabric and can be washed just as clothing or indoor fabrics would be.”
Once we were done cleaning, we sat down to indulge in a veritable feast of springtime deliciousness. We created a Southern-themed, Persian-influenced Haft-Seen in our Charleston backyard. Veering from the custom Iranian menu but in keeping with the “S” theme, I made seven dishes beginning with S: smoked salmon, strawberry and mint salad, sliced red apples (the Persian for apple is Seeb), sesame seed crackers (benne wafers, a traditional Southern snack), a “sweet treat” of red velvet cupcakes, smoked Halloumi cheese (a salty Turkish delicacy) and steak skewers. We also included some chocolate eggs and goldfish crackers, as painted eggs and a live goldfish are often part of an Iranian Haft-Seen table.
We finished the spread with fragrant hyacinths, colorful tulips and vivid red roses. These traditional spring flowers help celebrate the renewal of nature, Mehran says. After a busy day cleaning and preparing our patio for spring, followed by a well-earned feast, my family couldn’t have been more excited for the season!
Many countries in Europe celebrate the arrival of Spring on May 1 with a secular celebration known as May Day. Marked by singing, decorating the May pole, Morris dancing, drinking punch, and the crowning of a May Queen, May Day is a time for celebrating all across Europe.
I have fond memories from my childhood in rural England of dancing around a May pole in the parish churchyard, while watching the weird and wonderful spectacle of grown men wearing bells and dancing the Morris dance (wielding sticks, swords and handkerchiefs).
Recreating a May Day celebration in your own backyard offers the chance to add new elements to your space, while incorporating a little bit of whimsy. The highlight (and one of the sweetest parts of the May Day celebration) is the crowning of the May Queen, which traces its roots all the way back to Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. By adding a patio swing or hanging a hammock in the trees, you can create the perfect spot to crown your very own queen for a day and celebrate the dawning of spring. We made a garland of roses for my daughter, Rose, and had her brother make it official by crowning her while she sat regally in our hanging hammock chair.
To simulate the May Pole in our own backyard space, we wrapped colorful dancing ribbons around our patio umbrella and tried not to get tangled up or fall down, laughing as we attempted to navigate the rhythmic May pole dance. After a few minutes, we were ready for a refreshing May Day punch, concocted of grape juice, sparkling water, lemonade, and lots of fresh fruit and mint. Our patio was surely on its way to becoming a magical space for spring.
India’s Holi festival, known as the Festival of Color, signifies the coming of spring as the victory of good over evil, light over dark. Traditionally it is a time that friends and family gather together to love, laugh and repair broken relationships.
“On the eve of the festival, bonfires are lit, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil,” says Nisha Vedi Pawar, a blogger who shares her family’s Indian recipes at Love Laugh Mirch. “Celebrations continue the next day with outdoor parties, where people throw beautiful, vibrant, colored powder and water at each other.”
Incorporating color into outdoor furniture is the perfect way to welcome spring in the Holi tradition, and we did just that—adding pillows and a more-colorful rug to our patio. Interior designer Kelly tells us, “Some of our favorite accessories include outdoor pillows that add a punch of color and comfort.” An outdoor rug is another great way to add some “punch,” as are wicker planters filled with bright spring blooms.
The Holi tradition of throwing vibrant colored powder also captured our imaginations. “The bright colors and carefree mood are my favorite parts of Holi,” Pawar agrees. We came up with a fun (and slightly less messy) way to spray color using tinted powder, spray bottles and white paper LED lanterns to create colorful and functional painted lanterns. (See below for instructions.) Once they were dry, we draped them around our patio umbrella to lend a touch of whimsy and burst of color to our patio scene.
Of course, the children were excited at the prospect of actually throwing water at each other. While Pawar recommends a sprinkler party (weather permitting), we picked up some colorful water balloons and allowed our little ones to indulge in a festive fight in the backyard (at a safe distance from the parents, of course). A new, colorful (and wet) springtime tradition was born.
The Chinese celebrate the arrival of spring with The Chinese Lantern Festival. Falling on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, the festival marks the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration.
“Celebrants light and release lanterns or hang them up for decoration,” explains Maria Wen Adcock of Bicultural Mama. “Families also set off fireworks, exchange lantern riddles, watch lion dances and eat tāng yuan (ball-shaped dumplings with sweet fillings made of sweet rice flour).”
The festival, which welcomes the end of the winter’s darkness, focuses on light, and the community celebrates with lanterns. Lantern festivals fashioned after this traditional Chinese celebration are becoming increasingly popular around the globe.
While setting off fireworks and releasing lanterns into the sky are activities best suited for the larger street festivals, Adcock says this celebration can be customized for the home. She decorates her home with colorful paper lanterns during the festival. The lanterns remind her of the beauty of spring, she says, and they are the perfect way to join in the celebration of the festival, right from her own backyard.
Interior designer Kelly gives advice for layering light: “Add dimension to your outdoor space with layers of light via lanterns, pathway lights, up-lighting and twinkle lights.” As for lighting do’s and don’ts? “Do paint your extension cords to match the body of your home. Don’t use indoor lighting outside — make sure your twinkling lights, lanterns and other layered light fixtures are rated for the outdoors,” she says.
For our patio’s finishing touch, we took Kelly’s advice and strung colorful LED paper lanterns through the trees around our patio and wrapped outdoor twinkling string lights around wicker planters and outdoor lanterns. The ambience of the gently twinkling lights and flickering flames of the fire pit created a reflective, calming ambience. That is, until we broke out the marshmallows. Our own intimate lantern fest had become the final touch to our springtime space.
Every family creates its own traditions, often drawing from our cultures and ancestors. Expanding our horizons to the global world around us not only gives us the opportunity to enrich our family time together — it can add life and personality to our homes as well.
- Water color powder paints
- Water spritzer bottles
- Solar-powered white LED lanterns
- Paper towels
- Make the paint by pouring each of the water color powders into a different spritzer bottle and mixing it with water.
- Spritz each lantern with plain water to help the colors absorb.
- Now comes the fun part! Take each “watercolor in a bottle” and spritz the lanterns, starting with a base layer of one color, then adding layers of different colors to achieve a multi-hued, tie-dyed look.
- Let the orbs dry in the sun and wait until dark, when the solar-powered LED bulbs come to life and turn into magical little balls of color.
Click here to return to the section about the Holi celebration.
Jennifer Tuohy is a writer and an avid DIY crafter who chronicles her projects and family life from her home in South Carolina. If Jennifer’s patio transformation has inspired you to rejuvenate your outdoor space this spring, you can find the products she chose on The Home Depot’s website.