Bebe Taian: Kiku no Sekku, Festival of Chrysanthemums

September 9, 2012

Kiku no Sekku, Festival of Chrysanthemums

Chouyou no Sekku, also known as Kiku no Sekku is one of five ancient Japanese holidays, started during the Heian era in 910CE. It is no longer a national holiday, and really, I don't think anyone celebrates this anymore.

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
Normally, Chouyou no Sekku would be celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month, according to the Lunar calendar- October 23rd of this year- but because Japan runs on the Western calendar these days, you might see it being held on this day instead.

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.

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