Setsubun, Candlemas and Martisor

05 Feb

I was fascinated to read Leo’s description of Setsubun the other day on Brass Pounder’s Cafe. It seems it is a cross (ceremony wise at least) between our celebration of New Year’s and Ground Hog Day. The two celebrations set me on a search of other similar festivities. There is an old Texas Tradition to consume, cook or otherwise toss Black-Eyed Peas at New Year. Like Setsubun, our New Year involved legumes. In Setsubun one tosses peas. What does one have to do with the other?

Well, mostly I was curious about Setsubun and Ground Hog Day falling on nearly the same dates with some similar symbols involved with close-by holidays. I thought that they had to signal something similar in both cultures. I may be wrong on this but they appear to belong to a family of traditions that are called Cross Events. That is, events when plotted out on a circular calendar would cross if their points were connected by lines. Also, they are midway between seasons. Winter is December 21 and Spring is March 21. A date splitting these is about February 1-2-3 ish. Setsubun falls on Feb 3rd , Ground Hog Day is Feb. 2nd and Martisor is March 1st. I am assuming there are four such date sets in the other seasons but I have not looked at them yet.

I found that Ground Hog Day was derived from Candlemas, a European Tradition that celebrated a general date when hibernating animals came out of their burrows to see a sunny day which then would signal the end of winter. In our case here in the US that translated into a Hedge Hog or better known as Ground Hog. In Europe it is the Badger. I assume the seed throwing in Setsubun is a similar signal of  the end of winter and the return of fertility.

Martisor is a little different but seems to fit into this category. It celebrates Springs return but is derived from Roman New Year which came on March 1st. It is celebrated with a Talisman or a charm hung around your neck with a bit of white string. I understand Daragons were involved in some cultures but thats another story. I wonder how many more cross calendar events are celebrated by other cultures? I would bet a lot. Being part of a century where we collect our food from shiny shoppes and get our “Fire Wood” from an outlet takes us farther and farther from our origins. It is nice to remember from whence we came.

I am someone that cannot keep track of my Solstices and Equinoxes etc etc. I thought this would be a fun exercise to discover new points on my calendar compass.

Thanks for reading my blog. Best, Chas W7MAP/5

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Posted by on February 5, 2009 in Radio


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