Cultural traditions often serve as a foundation for an appreciation of the interconnection of cycles of nature, of time, and of human life. In many cultures, these cyclical events mean celebration, beautiful sights, and of course, food! Dining outdoors serves as a perfect way to engage with your neighbor, and as some cultural traditions show, can be a opportunity to embrace your prepared meal with a special symbolic significance.
While certainly not every picnic needs to coincide with the phases of the moon, the cultural traditions of Japan include a unique method for appreciating the natural world known as otsukimi (trans. “moon viewing”). Otsukimi occurs typically in the autumn and is a celebration honoring the autumn full moon. Dating back to the Heian period (794 to 1185 CE), the tradition was once reserved for Japanese aristocrats who held parties to view the harvest moon and recite poetry, but has since emerged as a gala affair that all can enjoy.
The especially interesting aspect of otsukimi, like the similar Japanese tradition of hanami (trans. “flower viewing”), is the inclusion of special decoration and foodstuffs that are engineered to heighten the experience. On the evening of the full moon in September, traditionally-minded Japanese citizens can be seen gathering in places where the moon can be seen clearly, decorating the site with pampas grass and then eating special rice dumplings, edamame, taro, sweet potato, chestnuts and other seasonal foods (along with sake, no doubt).
This kind of “night picnic” is an excellent example of how a culture can come together to embrace the beauty of nature and get the most out of an outdoor dining experience. Just because the sun goes down doesn’t mean the picnic party has to end! Paying more attention to the lunar calendar is a easy way to cultivate a dependable and spiritually satisfying picnic practice. Try and think of your own unique way to celebrate the cycles of the moon this year with an personal outdoor “moon-viewing” picnic!
If night-time dining just isn’t your thing, there are plenty of natural phenomenon that occur during the daytime that can be celebrated in similar ways. One customer reported her ritual with her family as being an their own annual “leaf-viewing” picnic in a nearby state park near her home. Whatever your inclinations are, outdoor dining and beautiful settings go hand in hand.
BIO: Soleil is a former chef, with an encyclopedia of recipes floating around in her head. Nowadays, she applies her culinary expertise to the wonderful world of fancy picnic baskets at Picnic World.
Photo Credits Japanese Picnic Erich Stüssi via Compfight cc Moon geraldford via Compfight cc