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Capital of Maryland Socks It to Winter

Each change of seasons in temperate parts of the United States is an excuse to celebrate! There's the lemming-like rush to the beach just ahead of summertime, pilgrimages to gape at the changing leaves come autumn, the waxing of skis in fervent anticipation of winter snowfalls.

But nothing quite compares to our imaginative rites of Spring. We don't usually take it to the extremes of the ancient pagans of Europe, who debauched wildly at the vernal, or Spring, equinox in tribute to Eoster, the lunar goddess of fertility from whom the modern word "Easter" derives. But the first warm wafts of air do intoxicate us.

The game of baseball's Spring Training in Florida and Arizona warmly welcomes back the scents of oiled leather, fresh grass, popcorn and beer. A cheery robin, heading north and pausing to hop across our lawn, presages the pleasant chirps of chickadees and nuthatches to come. With the first balmy weekend, we set to scrubbing the barbecue grill, oiling the mountain bike, and rousting the winter's mustiness out of our homes with a good Spring cleaning. In the American Southwest, state parks direct visitors to ancient Indian stonepiles built to mark Spring's arrival through a wondrous interplay of rocks and rays of the sun.

And perhaps our most distinctive Spring commemoration takes place in Annapolis, capital of the East Coast state of Maryland. Boaters there salute the season with the annual "Burning of the Socks" ritual. A winter's heap of smelly socks is heaved onto a raging bonfire, for it will soon be time to don one's boat shoes, which are typically worn without stockings.

At this year's event, an old boater had some sage advice. During the Spring sock-burning, he told the Associated Press, "it's a good idea to stand upwind."