大寒 – Winter`s final whirl

The weather has become pretty nippy lately. There is a reason: for two weeks we have been longjohning our way through 小寒 (Small Cold).  In a few minutes, it is the 20th of January which makes it, according to the old Chinese calendar, the start of 大寒 (Big Cold).  Don`t be afraid of Big Cold though; it`s winter`s last blast.  In two weeks, it`s Setsubun – and the official end of winter.

The old Chinese calendar, used in Japan until 1873, divided the year into 24.  This way of thinking about the seasons has inspired me.  Suddenly the snowy streets and empty parks look different - more unique, more precious. Too long have I been trapped into thinking there`s nothing between Christmas presents and Easter Eggs.  How mistaken I was! Dividing up winter into portions makes it more manageable, more interesting – and far shorter.  And with winter finishing in February, spring is going to be enormous!

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