But once, it was a very popular religious holiday. In the ancient capital of Heian-kyo, modern-day Kyoto, where the royalty lived, kiku (chrysanthemums) represented immortality. In fact, the Emperor's position is referred to as 'the Chrysanthemum Throne'. Heian-era aesthetics dictated that beauty was the key factor in life: a beautiful person was often judged as a 'good' person. One should be physically and spiritually beautiful, and to have a beautiful mind. Women in high positions were educated and were quite literate, although fairly sheltered. It was often of greater distaste to be found guilty of writing bad poetry than it was to have a not-so-secret tryst. Knowing this, you might begin to understand why such a display of flowers was so very, very important.
On Kiku no Sekku, great displays of chrysanthemums were brought out, in all kinds of colours and varieties. It was a very festive day, allowing the normally hidden and sheltered court ladies to leave their quarters and socialize outdoors, admiring the beauty of the flowers, compose poetry, and enjoy the party!
|Utagawa Kunisada - Kikuzuki|
How do you celebrate?
Dress up! Especially in the colours of kiku, or wear something with a kiku motif. Drink chrysanthemum teas or wines. One custom is to wrap the flowers with cotton and to leave it overnight to absorb the scent and dew of the flowers. This protects the flowers during the colder days of October, and it was once thought that this scented water would cure illnesses and promote longevity. If nothing else, it smells beautiful and delicate. Write poetry, explore the different species of kiku being shown, and enjoy the fleeting scenery.