In the Chinese lunar calendar, the ninth day of the ninth lunar month (October 21 this year) is called Climbing the Heights. People celebrate by picnicking outside on hillsides, drinking chrysanthemum wine, and eating crab. In some places, people construct huge kites in the shape of dragons, birds, butterflies, and centipedes, and use them to fight and bring down other kites.
This day is also called the Double Ninth festival, and the number 9 is a special number associated with yang energy and the sun. As with cherry blossom festivals, people hold chrysanthemum viewing parties and compose poems to honor the flower.
This festival is one of the five sacred festivals in Japan, where it is usually celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar, again with an emphasis on the chrysanthemum, which is one of the Four Gentlemen flowers and an emblem of autumn. People drink chrysanthemum wine, eat chrysanthemum cakes (made with rice flour and chrysanthemum petals), and admire the flowers, which are sometimes used to create clothing for life-size figures.
If you were to take time to honor the season this week, what symbols would you choose? Falling leaves, a hike in the mountains, a glass of cider, a poem about a chrysanthemum?
Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”
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