The vernal equinox is the day when both noon and night become the same length. Once we enter into March, there is a Japanese national holiday that celebrates this known as "vernal equinox day" where people thank mother nature and celebrate spring's arrival. Also, this is around the time when any animals who were hibernating for the winter start to wake up and become active, which is said to bring motivation to people as well! In this article, we're going to go into a little more detail about vernal equinox day, what happens, and what meaning it holds.
What is Vernal Equinox Day?
Vernal equinox day has been designated as a public holiday since 1948. It is a day to "Recognize nature and love all living things". It is also thought that this is the day spring truly starts, and from here it will begin to get warmer. Before this day became a public holiday, it was an imperial ceremony of ancestor worship. It was a day where the imperial court would enshrine and hold a ceremony for the deceased previous emperors of Japan. Even now, on vernal equinox day, this takes place, as well as on autumnal equinox day.
When talking in astronomical terms, the vernal equinox is when the sun reaches the equator that cuts through the center of the north and south, meaning that both day and night have the same length. This is why the day for the vernal equinox changes yearly between the 20th and 21st of March. Every year, based on the chronological table created by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan on the 1st of February the day is set.
Visiting Graves on Vernal Equinox Day
The week with the vernal equinox in the center of it is also known as the equinoctial week. There is an equinoctial week in autumn as well, so they are sometimes split as "autumn equinoctial week" and "spring equinoctial week". The term "equinoctial" was originally a Buddhist word that meant "Leaving behind all of your worldly desires and moving onto the next". This can be simplified to "the world where your ancestors are living after passing on". This is why during this week a lot of people visit the graves of their lost loved ones.
The Differences to Autumnal Equinox Day
Both of these equinoctial weeks during spring and autumn are public holidays. spring sees the long nights getting shorter, whilst autumn sees them getting longer again.
Eating Botamochi on Vernal Equinox Day
Botamochi (adzuki bean-covered mochi) is one of the foods people eat during the vernal equinox. Also, during the autumnal equinox, people eat something known as "Ohagi". They seem identical when looked at, and they actually are the exact same! The only thing that changes is the name they go by depending on the season, with botamochi representing tree peony flowers, and ohagi representing the Japanese clover which is called "Hagi" in Japanese. It is said the red beans and red color used in these has the effects to drive away evil spirits, which is why they're used during these national holidays.
If you're ever visiting Japan during this time of year, you should definitely check out the festivities and traditional foods!