Celebrate Spring with the Japanese Holiday: 春分の日 (Shunbun no Hi)!
The Japanese Calendar sure can be a wonder for those who enjoy learning about the Japanese culture and traditions. Every month, with the exception of June, has a holiday. and with 20th March just around the corner lies the Spring Equinox Day, 春分の日.
What is 春分の日 (Shunbun no Hi)?
春 is a Kanji character for spring and 分 is an ideogram meaning “to divide”. 春分の日 marks the end of winter and start of spring. This national holiday was first established in 1948 for Japanese to welcome the spring. It was also meant as a way for them to appreciate the natural blooming after the winter. This day is part of a seven-day period known as 春の彼岸, a celebration born during the Meiji Era.
Spring Equinox marks the changing of seasons, After which, days will eventually get longer while nights get shorter. Temperatures start to warm up and cherry blossoms start to bloom. Every year, there are two days where the hours of light and hours of darkness are equivalent, namely Spring Equinox Day and Autumnal Equinox Day. Due to astronomical changes, Spring Equinox Day may fall on any of the dates ranging from 19 March to 22 March.
In Buddhism, it’s believed that when the hours of light and darkness are equal, Buddha appears to help stray souls to cross the river between the earthly world and Nirvana. On 春分の日, Japanese families offer flowers, pay respect to their ancestors’ grave, offer food and clean the tombstones. They believed that by doing so, they help their ancestors in crossing the river. You could be surprised to learn in particular that Japanese people offer sake to their ancestors. One of the common food that they offer to their ancestors is a rice cake covered with bean powder, the ぼたもち.
Around the Autumnal Equinox, ぼたもち is named おはぎ. Like for 春分の日, Japanese will visit their ancestor’s grave. Farmers pray for abundant harvest for their crops in the upcoming season using the following Japanese proverb:
Heat and Cold last until Higan