I was thinking about yesterday’s haiku by Issa, where he says it’s New Year and everything is in blossom. I originally thought it was a bit of poetic licence – after all, things generally don’t blossom at the start of January. But then I remembered that in the England and elsewhere in the West, for centuries the date for the start of the new year was the 25th of March. It kind of makes sense because although the date was biblical in origin, it is also around the spring equinox. Winter is over and new life is starting to emerge, so I suspect it actually goes back to pagan times. It was the change to the Gregorian calendar that ultimately led to the change.
So I did a bit of delving about the Japanese New Year, and sure enough it used to be celebrated in late February when the first blossoms began to emerge. So even if Issa was being poetical, he was also literally correct!
I actually find the standardisation of such events quite sad. Old New Year wasn’t just a date on a calendar, it was a significant point in the cycle of life and so it made sense. It might make for good television to be able to show firework displays around the world as the clock strikes twelve in different time zones, but not only is it indicative of a move away from our relationship with the seasons and nature, but of a kind of creeping homogenisation of global culture (in the way that people all over the world have gradually abandoned their wonderful, colourful robes, kimonos and other styles for Western jeans, T-shirts and suits.)
At least on this blog, the real New Year will be celebrated again on 25th March – thanks, Issa!