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Spirit Horse & Oxen for Obon to Welcome Your Ancestors


We talked about the mukaebi welcoming fire and the okuribi farewell fire in the last blog posts. Animals made of cucumbers and eggplants are vehicles for ancestors returning home for Obon. The cucumber is made to look like a fast spirit horse so that the ancestors can return home quickly. The eggplant is used as a spirit cow to carry many offerings so that the ancestors can return home slowly. (In some regions, the theory is reversed.) At the welcoming fire, cucumbers and eggplants are placed at the gate or entrance facing the house, and after the welcoming fire is over, they are moved to the top of the Obon shelf inside the house. For the farewell fire of sending off, the spirit horse and spirit cow are brought to the gate or in front of the entrance, and both are placed facing outward, opposite to the welcoming fire. To make a spirit horse and spirit cow by yourself, all you need are a cucumber, an eggplant, and disposable chopsticks or toothpicks. They can be easily made by yourself. Why don't try making them to welcome and send off your ancestors for this Obon season? (Welcoming fire and farewell fire are not common events in the U.S.A., as they can be dangerous. Please do them at your own risk.) We offer Suzuki Farm's cucumbers and eggplants during the summer!


Directions: 1. split the disposable chopsticks and divide each into 4 equal pieces. Prepare 8 toothpicks if you use toothpicks.


2. Stick disposable chopsticks or toothpicks into the positions of the front legs and the back legs.


3. Check if they stand on their own by standing them up.

Tips:

  • If you adjust the length of the disposable chopsticks to make the cow's legs shorter and the horse's legs longer, you can make them closer to their actual figures!

  • Choose a large eggplant that gives a sense of strength, and a cucumber that looks like it can run fast. Choose the ones that are slightly bent to make them look more animal-like.

  • If you use disposable chopsticks, be careful with small children.

A spirit horse and a spirit cow that have completed their roles should never be eaten. They may be rotten, and they are vehicles used by the souls of your ancestors, so they should be buried in the ground or purified with salt, wrapped in paper towels or other white paper, and thrown away, instead of being eaten.


***

Why are There Different Obon periods?

For example, in the Kanto region, Obon is usually held around July 13-16, while in the Kansai and western Japan regions, it is often held in August. Depending on the region, Obon is divided into July Bon = around July 15 on the new calendar, August Bon = around August 15 on the new calendar, and Lunar Bon = around July 15 on the lunar calendar. (Dates change from year to year for the Lunar Bon).

This division was made at the beginning of the Meiji Era when the lunar calendar was switched to the new calendar. At that time, there was a debate about how to schedule festivals and annual events that had been held according to the lunar calendar. This led to differences in the schedule of Obon in various regions of the country, with some following the lunar calendar and others switching to the new calendar.


*** There is a lot of food items, housewares, stationery, and gifts available at the store and our online store, Maido! Kairashi Shop, where you can place your order for shipping or store pickup! Happy shopping. :)




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