This year, the winter solstice falls on December 22.
The new year is just around the corner.
On the traditional lunar calendar, the winter solstice comes in mid-winter.
After the day with the shortest daytime of the year, daytime becomes longer by the day.
The return of spring - this long-awaited day is also the day to prepare for the coldest time of year.
We warm our bodies in a hot bath with floating yuzu lemon peel.
We warm our bodies eating cooked pumpkin.
In some areas, people eat adzuki bean porridge or “itoko-ni,” pumpkins and adzuki beans cooked together.
The winter solstice is a winter festivity.
Some regions may still follow the custom of having a bonfire near the gate on the winter solstice.
Winter is bonfire season.
While they have disappeared from our daily lives, bonfires remain the essence of many winter events:
The winter solstice, the “Dondo-yaki*” and the “Otaki-age**” at the Daruma Market…
Why do I find the smell of bonfires is so nostalgic?
In countries around the world with long winters, people share that sense of keeping warm wishing that spring would come soon.
In many countries, people have bonfires to celebrate the winter solstice.
Even Christmas is said to have its roots in a winter solstice festival.
Given the harsh European winters, it must have been a great joy to welcome the winter solstice.
The French Christmas cake “bûche de Noël” originated in the burning of logs at the winter solstice festival.
For a long time, I had wondered,
“Why logs on Christmas?”
The mystery was solved when I learned about that Christmas and the winter solstice were closely related.
Even if I cannot have a bonfire, I will prepare for the new year and cold weather by warming myself with pumpkins and yuzu lemons on the winter solstice.
* a ritual burning of New Year’s decorations
** a ritual burning of last year's Daruma dolls
Illustrated and written by Emiko Hirano
Illustrator and essayist. Born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1961 and raised in Yokohama. Has published many illustrations and essays on mountain hiking, travels and lifestyles.
A Casual Fragrance Calendar