22/12 is “Touji” in Japan
22nd of December is called "Touji (冬至)" in Japan, which is the day has the longest night in a year and one of shijuu-sekki. In winter all the plants died, many animals go into hibernation and gets difficult to find food. Well we are talking about before industrial revolution at least. Also the day time becomes shorter which gave humans enough anxiety.
In Japan on Touji people have a custom to eat pumpkin and have a bath with Yuzu orange.
I always thought pumpkin was a winter veggie but it´s actually a summer veggie. Ancient people kept them for the winter to survive and it contains a lot of vitamin E, ß and carotene which increase our immune system and keeps away flu from you.
So people eat pumpkin to prepare the coming winter in front of them.
Also on Touji day we have a hot bath with lots of yuzu fruits floating. Yuzu is a little citrus fruit, but as it´s too sour we usually use them for an accent of the food but rarely eat them as a fruit.
Ancient Japanese believed this strong sharp smell of Yuzu had a power to drive off the bad spirits so they took a bath with yuzu in it. Why bath? You may think. Touji, you can write 冬至 which carries the letter "winter" but you can also write 湯治 which changes the meaning completely to "hot-spring sure". So they played with the word and enjoy a hot bath. We love having a hot bath and it´s inevitable.
In my house every year on this day we ate pumpkin and took Yuzu bath. As we take a really hot bath, actually yuzu were quite cooked by the time I had a bath. I enjoyed squashing them and my mum would tell me off doing that, because all the little seeds and the bits of fruits stuck in the drain and it was her had to get rid of them.
I thought it was amusing but not for her.
Historically people consider Touji day as the beginning of a new year as the day time is getting longer apart from this day. In China, it was the first day of the lunar calendar and was having a very special ceremony. It was introduced to Japan during the Middle Ages, 12-16 century and celebrated among aristocrats.
I saw an article in Asahi paper saying that in a onsen facility in Ishino-maki (石巻), Iwate (岩手) appeared a huge pumpkin bath.
This is Atlantic giant pumpkin it has 2 m in diameter and 160 kg of weight. Of course there were yuzu floating in it. It must´ve been fun to have a bath in pumpkin!
On the 22nd of December, Ishino-maki went down to -0.3 ºC and had 5 cm of snow.
Those who missed Touji, don´t worry you can eat and have a yuzu bath to stay strong and healthy this winter!