After a long winter, the Japanese look forward to a day off on March 20th in celebration of Vernal Equinox Day, or Shunbun no hi. This public holiday is celebrated annually on the day when the sun crosses the equator making day and night equal in length. On this day everyone is encouraged to celebrate all living things and welcome the arrival of spring through the appreciation of nature and all the beauty it holds.
With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of new beginnings. In addition to being with family and in nature, people use this time to “renew their lives” and have a fresh start with the new season. In order to do this, people will thoroughly clean their homes and make some important life changes they have been putting off, such as acquiring a new hobby or finishing something they started.
For farmers, the vernal equinox is also a very important time. They use the holiday to pray for good luck and fortune regarding their crops during the upcoming season.
During the Vernal Equinox also comes a time known as Higan. Higan is a seven day period where the Japanese pay respect to their ancestors. During this time it is popular for Japanese to visit their ancestors and loved ones’ grave sites and pay homage to them by cleaning their graves and leaving gifts to show respect. Taking advantage of the day off, many Japanese will also return to their childhood homes to be with their family.