One-hundred years ago, the First Lady of the United States of America, Helen Taft,
and the Japanese ambassador’s wife, Viscountess Chinda, planted two Japanese cherry trees in Washington, D.C. The annual commemoration of this act of good will would come to be known as the “National Cherry Blossom Festival.” In this festival, droves of Americans flock to see the riotously beautiful pink and white blossoms of the Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry trees. Officially, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. serves to reaffirm the commitment to enduring friendship between United States and Japan: the cherry blossoms blooming on American soil symbolize the strong cultural ties that
have come to exist between these two countries. In continuing shows of amity, Japan has given many thousands more cherry trees over the decades which the United States have reciprocated with gifts of flowering dogwoods for Tokyo.
Over the years the “Cherry Blossom Festival” has become a widely celebrated event in many others cities across the United States of America as well. Cities in California, Georgia, Hawaii, and other states have taken to celebrating this breathtaking tree’s springtime bloom. But in recently attending Macon, Georgia’s Cherry Blossom Festival, I didn’t get a whiff of any Japanese-American cultural celebrations—instead, this original message had been supplanted by a general exuberance at the return of the sunny, mild season of spring. Hundreds of local vendors had set up shop in the streets of the small city and were hawking their hand-crafted wares: hand-carved beeswax candles, jars of infused honeys, decorated roof-slats from Civil-War-era buildings, and many other pieces of Americana filled the white tents. There was a real sense of graciousness and general camaraderie in the air as these Southern citizens wandered the streets, taking in the invigorating springtime air and watching pink petals float by in the breeze like confetti. Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival seemed, more than anything else, to provide the town’s folks with an opportunity to get out and see for themselves the evidence of spring’s dawning. Even though this past winter was particularly gentle for many, the life-giving symbolism of spring and its cherry trees still remained strong for those who went to see the intertwining branches set against the robin-egg blue sky.