Many of us deem the beginning of Spring as a rather mundane day, but not the Japanese! In their culture, both the equinoxes – time of the year when the length of day and night is nearly equal – are magical days that mark the passing of the seasons. At Spring Day (Shunbun no hi), we praise the arrival of Spring and the end of the cold season, with the official beginning of the cherry blossom season.
However, it is not only a celebration of Nature, but also time to honor the spirits of their ancestors. The seven-day period that surrounds this holiday is called the higan, and is a very special time, deeply ingrained in the Buddhist tradition. In fact, according to Buddhist beliefs, when a person dies, his or her soul crosses this world’s (Shigan) “River of Three Crossings” (Sanzu No Kawa) to the other world (Higan –the Enlightenment shore–). And only when the soul manages to swim against the currents and to reach that shore can it really obtain spiritual freedom. Thus, at Shunbun no Hi, many religious ceremonies are organized and families gather at the graves of their loved ones to honor them and to flower the latter with chrysanthemums.