[Winter Solstice]

This year's Winter Solstice is on December 22, and Christmas is right after that, on December 25, which is counted among the annual religious and cultural celebrations of the Nativity of Jesus Christ throughout the world. In Mithraism, one of the ancient Roman religions, December 25 was the winter solstice festival celebrating Mithras, the sun god, as the day on which the immortal sun was born. It is also the festival of Sol Invictus, the sun god of Roman mythology. This is said to have influenced the date of this Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.

The winter solstice is the day of the year when the sun is at its lowest point and the daylight hours are the shortest of the year, but after this day the sun's power increases and spring arrives. Another name for the Winter Solstice is "ichiyo-raifuku." It also means that the yin has turned to the yang, that winter has passed, spring has finally come, and the New Year will arrive, and that after a series of bad events, we are finally on the way to good fortune.

On the Japanese winter solstice, it is customary to drink yuzu (citron) baths and eat kabocha (squash). The custom of taking a yuzu bath on the winter solstice is said to have started in the Edo period (1603-1867), when public bathhouses were first established, because the words "to-ji" (winter solstice) and "to-ji" (hot spring cure) mean "to cure" and "yuzu" means "to be flexible" respectively. Yuzu has a strong aroma, and it was believed to purify the body and ward off evil spirits. It is said that bathing in a yuzu bath on the winter solstice prevents one from catching a cold, and is said to promote blood circulation, prevent colds, and relieve sensitivity to cold, neuralgia, and back pain.

On the other hand, the custom of eating kabocha comes from one of the "Seven Kinds of Foods of the Winter Solstice," which is a food of good omen. The "Seven Kinds of Foods of the Winter Solstice" is based on the legend that eating foods with two "n" (meaning the end of things) will bring luck. The seven kinds are kabocha, lotus root, carrot, ginkgo, kumquat, agar, and udon. Lotus root and carrots are often used in osechi dishes, and these foods contain ample nutrients suitable for this cold season. Among them, kabocha has been often eaten to prevent colds and other illnesses and to ward off bad luck, as it can be stored for a long time and is rich in vitamins. And kabocha dishes for the winter solstice vary from region to region. There are various kinds of kabocha dishes such as simmered kabocha and red beans, kabocha houtou, and kabocha zenzai (sweet red bean soup with squash).

As the end of the year is approaching, why not enjoy the customs of the winter solstice so that you can spend winter in good spirits?

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