Blackcabbit's World

Bit by bit, the Blackcabbit crafts its nest of DIY handmade art and illustrates a kingdom of doodle critters to beautify the world she lives in.

The Vernal and Autumnal Equinox Days

What is an equinox? It is an event whereby the center of the sun is over the earth’s equator, making the length of day and night nearly the same. This event occurs twice a year, in March and in September.

In Japan, they are actually national holidays.

March 21:
Vernal (Spring) Equinox Day
(Shunbun no hi / 春分の日)

September 23:
Autumnal Equinox Day
(Shubun no hi / 秋分の日)

Both holidays are also known as Higan no chunichi (彼岸の中日), which means the mid of the equinoctial week. Higan (彼岸), a Buddhist term that is not only refers to the river that separates the living and the dead, but is used to describe the 7-day Buddhist event of which they hold services.

Here is a common phrase that my father-in-law loves to use: 暑さ寒さも彼岸まで (Atsusa Samusa mo Higan ma de). It says that summer heat ends around Autumnal Equinox, and winter cold ends around Vernal (Spring) Equinox. Hence, it is not surprising that most Japanese actually uses the Higan period to gauge the change of season.

Ancestral Spirits Return

Unlike most public holidays, the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox Days are solemn and religious in nature. They are traditions with Buddhist origin for the Japanese to remember and honor their dead. Japanese believe that the spirits of their deceased family members will return to human world briefly during the seven-day Higan. And that the souls will be waiting at their ancestral grave.

Year after year, families faithfully pay respects to their dead by cleaning the tombstone industriously; clearing weeds and debris; presenting flowers and Ohagi (お萩 / rice ball), burning incense and offering prayers.

絵手紙 春分の日 秋分の日

I did an Etegami (Picture Postcard) for
the “Vernal and Autumnal Equinox Days.”
Message: See you again!

RELATED LINK:

Japanese Annual Events (Main Page)

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This entry was posted on September 23, 2010 by in Art & Illustrations, Etegami / Nengajo (Postcard Art), Festivals / Holidays, Life in Japan and tagged , .
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