Hanami - Celebrating Love and Life under the Spring Blossoms!
A beautiful springtime celebration for children of all ages!
“Petals falling unable to resist the moonlight
Sakura, sakura they fall in the dreams of sleeping beauty”
~ Yosa Buson
Happy Monday to you all!
Even though we are blanketed with snow and in the low 20’s here in Northeast Ohio, the signs of springs arrival are unmistakable. Everything is beginning to bud , green shoots full of the promise of daffodils are everywhere and all of the Robins are beginning to contemplate where they might feather their nests!
The earth smells like worms and all of the squirrels that I live with are busy tearing up my garden beds, searching for the last bits of their hidden stashes of acorns and other sweet meats. The happiest being in our household right now is our pup Malcolm, who absolutely lives for the snow.
In between walks ( Malcolm has enough energy for three dogs!) I spent the day snuggled with my cats, drinking tea and dreaming of warmer days to come, specifically the moments when my part of the world is covered in fragrant clouds of pink, plum and white blossoms. Those two weeks of spring are really special to me because of a Japanese ritual that I learned to honor as a child… the annual tradition of sitting contemplatively under the blossoms known as Hanami.
My childhood worldview was shaped by the foreign students that my parents sponsored through The Council on World Affairs from Case Western Reserve. Every 4 years I’d have a new “Brother or Sister”, although in truth none of them ever left us! It was an amazing experience for me to have so many people in my life who were from such rich and varied cultures. I became very comfortable early in my life with so many interesting things!
For someone who loves to celebrate holidays as much as I do, being able to experience so many different rituals was a really rich part of my childhood.
There was Santosh, the student from India who brought us beautiful saris and sandals to wear, or Riet from Holland who used to take me berry picking and foraging in the fields behind my parent’s home.
There was Michael from England, who is probably more responsible for my love of curry than anyone. There was Farhad, who came to us from Iran and every year would bring me gifts of nougat, rose covered almonds, Rose oil, Rose Water and absolutely beautiful hand painted mother of pearl jewelry.
My earliest memories though are of Hisashi and Kazuko, who were married in my parents back yard in a beautiful Japanese tea ceremony. They talked to me about many things, but what I remember the most were their memories of the beautiful springtime celebrations of Hanami, the ancient cherry blossom viewing festival in Japan. We didn’t have cherry trees, but my parents had glorious crabapple trees that circled all three acres of their property and I remember spreading out blankets with them, having magical fairy parties every spring under the fragrant and falling petals.
I can’t wait to have grandchildren of my own to do this with. I’m already planning menus of Wagashi (beautiful Japanese sweets) and fragrant jasmine tea.
In Japan, celebrating the transient beauty of spring flowers in a ritual called Hanami is a beloved custom that happens for a glorious two-week period when the cherry blossoms burst into bloom. The word Hanami literally means “flower viewing,” although it is most commonly used to refer to the viewing of cherry blossoms in particular. I am told that the celebration of Hanami dates all the way back to the 8th century – although I guess the flower of choice then was the equally beautiful and fleeting plum blossom.
Traditionally, Hanami celebrations would include afternoon picnics under the blossoms and gaily strung lanterns with all of your family and friends. You would be enjoying pots of fragrant green tea, sake, dumplings, pink rice and delectable Japanese sweets. This could, and often would, continue well into the evening when you could dine with your lover while nestled within the abundantly blooming trees.
This mysterious and romantic version of Hanami is called Yozakura, which simply means “the night cherry blossom”. After night fall, I’ve always noticed that the world takes on a different fragrance at blossom time. I think that you notice the scent of the blossoms more at nightfall because you’re not as distracted by the sheer visual beauty of the blooms.
I still do this every year as part of my springtime cleansing along with a renewal and awakening ritual. When the blooms begin, Jim and I will go for long walks hand in hand, stealing kisses underneath the clusters of blossoms and drinking in the sweet night time air, bathing in the warm spring breezes and falling blossoms. Hanami is my idea of the most magical of rituals, and it is one that’s so very easy to celebrate. It’s as simple as when the trees start blooming in your neighborhood, taking time for a walk to do nothing but appreciate the beauty of the blooms.
You could even take a moment out of every day to appreciate this glorious two-week period by bringing out a comfy chair and a book, a small table, a lovely pot of tea and sitting in quiet contemplation under the beautiful blossoms. Put down a blanket and have a picnic like the Japanese do!
After all, this is a period that signals a time of beauty and renewal. Spring has come again and aren’t we just so very glad? Why not take a few moments to relax and celebrate the emergence of these beautiful blossoms, because they’re only going to last two weeks.
If that’s not true magic I don’t know what is!
I hope that wherever you find yourself today that you’re warm and cozy and that you promise yourself a few precious moments in the next weeks to get outside, relax a bit and dream!
Wishing you all the brightest blessings of spring!
This is a wonderful video that lets you experience the springtime beauty of the Hanami celebration in Japan! I hope that you enjoy it!
“Donated by Japan, cherry blossoms grace the paths where a wall once stood in Berlin. Walls divide. Flowers unite.” ~ Khang Kijarro Nguyen
I still remember when the wall fell and Berlin was united. It was only 30 years ago. Watching the people of Berlin take it down was one of the most moving things I’d ever seen. Every spring 9,000 cherry trees blossom all along the path where the wall once stood. After the wall fell, a Japanese broadcaster spontaneously called on its viewers to donate these beautiful cherry trees as a gift for the reunification of the capital of Germany.
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