Muuchii’s big lunar day is celebrated Sunday
Muuchii is the day that in Okinawa is traditionally considered as the beginning of the winter. It’s December 8th according to the lunar calendar, which by the Gregorian calendar this year falls on Sunday, January 17th.
That’s also the day when people in Okinawa eat ‘muuchii’ rice cakes, a traditional Okinawan steamed rice cake wrapped in the leaf of shell ginger.
According to the tradition, eating muuchii is believed to provide good luck and maintain good health. It’s also customary to offer muuchii on a Buddhist altar at homes, and families, particularly those with small children, hang the same number of muuchii as their children’s age from the ceiling, praying for healthy growth for them. The practice is called ‘Sagi Muuchii’.
The custom originated from an old tale that that tells the story of an elder brother becoming a man-eating ogre. His younger sister punished the ogre by feeding him with a stone or rice cake containing scrap iron. From that legend comes the steaming juice, which comes out when making muuchii, said to be hot enough to burn a demon’s legs.
The coldest season of Okinawa is almost here. It’s also a time Okinawans call muuchii bisa, bisa meaning cold in the Okinawan language. It’s the time to eat to gain energy, signaling the arrival of the winter season.
These days most people do not go to the trouble of preparing the muuchii themselves. Instead they head to the nearest supermarket to buy some as muuchi is available at virtually all supermarkets on the island this time of the year.