Response to anthemfortheunderdogs’ Photo Challenge

Original Post

Reading about the traditional Chinese festival, Shangyuan, I felt reminded of a festival I’ve had the good fortune of being able to experience, albeit quite a few years ago: hanami. While Shangyuan is more of a tangible holiday, there is no set date to hanami. It is the viewing of cherry blossoms in Japan, a tradition that has taken place for centuries. At some point in the two weeks or so that the cherry blossoms are blooming, people make a point of coming out have a picnic under them. Admittedly, this does not have much in common with the Chinese day of love where lanterns fill the sky. What is similar about the two festivals is not their actual substance, but how it feels to be a part of them. I myself have never participated in Shangyuan, but from how it is described, with all these people crowded together, admiring the lights in the sky, with written riddles for the children and unspoken messages of love and community for everyone there, I think I can vaguely grasp at what it may be like. And when I was trying to imagine how it must feel to be part of this, I thought of my hanami experience. My family and their friends, sitting on a blanket over the green grass. Surrounding us, for as far as I could see, were people just like us, families and friends, congregating together for this beautiful day. Above us were no lanterns, but instead the pale pink blossoms of the cherry trees, drifting down onto us through the clear blue sky. There was no definitive message of love or friendship, but that feeling was as plain as can be, with all the people crowded together, drinking beer, eating greasy food, and talking about how pretty the flowers were that year. It was an unofficial gathering of the people into one tightly knit community, with so little space between groups that it was hard to tell where one family ended and another began. Though perhaps not as poetic or classically beautiful as the lantern festival, it was a wonderful community experience, one that I think everyone should get to see at least once in their lives.

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