|We usually see photos of cherry blossoms en masse, but they're absolutely precious close up!|
All around the country, cherry trees are flowering into clouds of pink petals, a beautiful and delightful sight to behold. There are multiple cherry blossom festivals in the United States, the most noteworthy of which is probably the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. Cherry blossoms have a long history and many varied meanings, the most famous of which is the Japanese tradition of hanami - essentially parties organized to view blossoming cherry trees. Originally hanami were philosophical excursions with the purpose of reflecting on the transient nature of life, but have evolved into festive gatherings to enjoy the beauty of nature.
Japan and the United States have been exchanging gifts of cherry trees as tokens of friendship since 1910. The first trees from Japan were planted in Sakura Park in Manhattan (sakura being the Japanese name for the cherry tree) and along the shore of the Tidal Basin in Washington DC, and this gift was renewed in 1965 with the planting of an additional 3800 trees. In 1981, a fire destroyed a number of cherry trees in Japan, and the United States was able to reciprocate the kindness of the Japanese by offering cuttings from the original trees planted in Sakura Park to Japanese horticulturalists working to restore the cherry tree population.
In Japan, the cherry blossom is a symbol for the ephemeral nature of life, extreme beauty, and quick death. In Chinese tradition, the cherry blossom stands for the empowerment of women, beauty, and feminine sexuality.