The Vernal Equinox is almost upon us – and that means Spring is finally here.The long-awaited coming of Spring is a time of excitement known the world over, as trees and flowers bloom and the world wakes up from the somber sleep of Winter.
This blossoming of the natural world has long been reason for celebrations and rituals since the dawn of time. Agricultural societies, such as the Greeks and Romans dedicated many days of festival to goddesses such as Isis, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Astarte to thank them for bringing back the land, the fruit, the flowers and the light. The ancient Persians celebrated the festival of Nawruz, their New Year, on the Spring Equinox. The Celts, the Druids, had their similar celebrations. Our own Easter celebration was based on and named for the Saxon goddess, Eostre, a goddess of the dawn. Just as the dawn is the time of new light, so the vernal equinox is the time of new life.
And the same is true in Japan, the freezing winters give way to eager delight of new life and the coming of the cherry blossoms (sakura). Echoing their deep seated cultural belief in the transient nature of life and of youth, their celebration of the sakura trees – Hanami, or “flower viewing” – must happen in the early part of the season, before the petals fall to the ground and disappear. It is during this short, yet honorific time that Japan is ablaze with pink and white flowers and the air is filled with their sweet aroma, bringing people together outdoors to sit under the trees in celebration of Spring.
Not only are the cherry blossoms out, but it is during this early time in the season, when the tea fields are bright as emeralds and the leaves are the freshest. To honor this time of rebirth and harvest, a special tea was created in Japan which combines the most special Sencha green tea with cherry flavors and rose petals, affectionately called Kyoto Cherry Rose Festival. Kyoto has long been the spiritual and cultural center of Japan. This tea is still often used in special ceremonies and to mark events of personal importance.
While I have never been to Japan, I have the similar experience of being in both Philadelphia and Washington DC – two major east coast cities that also explode with the sweet smell and beauty of the cherry blossom. So today, I choose to drink this very special tea in honor of the most anticipated season of the year.
Her blog, Mad Pots of Tea!
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