Tuesday 21st of March is the Autumn Equinox. The Equinox is a time of balance, a time when the hours of day and night are relatively equal. The March Equinox heralds the southern hemisphere’s fall into Autumn and reminds us that Winter is on its way. After the Equinox, long warm days will slowly be overtaken by longer cooler nights.
In the shadow of the March Equinox is a very special day – National Panda Day! National Panda Day is celebrated on March 16th. It is interesting that a day that celebrates giant pandas falls near the March Equinox. The black and white colouring of the giant panda is a peaceful blend of dark and light and perfectly reflects the symbology of the Equinox. Like the Equinox, the giant panda is a symbol of harmony.
In a surprising coincidence, the giant panda is not the only panda with a connection to the Equinox. The red panda also has its own special day which is celebrated near (or sometimes on) the September Equinox. International Red Panda Day (IRPD) is celebrated on the third Saturday in September. The black, white, brown and red colouring of the red panda make it a great symbol for the southern hemisphere Spring Equinox as the warm colours remind us of the hot Summer coming our way. These same colours are also appropriate for the Autumn Equinox taking place in the northern hemisphere as they are reminiscent of Fall colours. There is even a meme that calls red pandas pumpkin spice racoons which does the rounds during pumpkin spice season.
So whether you’re falling into Fall or springing into Spring – there’s a panda nearby to guide you!
March 16th is Panda Day. It’s a day to celebrate giant pandas and to raise awareness about the struggles pandas face in the wild. Giant pandas are an “umbrella species” which means that the protections we place around wild pandas and their habitats, also protect other animals that share those vulnerable habitats with them. Drawing attention to the struggles of one species can also prompt us to look at other vulnerable animals and hopefully will inspire us to do something to protect the many species around the world that need our help.
Giant pandas are not only important for the planet, but for some of us they nourish our souls. In A Personality Of Pandas, I wrote about my personal connection to pandas and how they helped me through a very difficult time. After a horror couple of years that included a global pandemic, I recently needed to draw on the healing power of pandas again. The best way to do that was to visit the quirky black and white bears at Adelaide Zoo.
Adelaide Zoo is the only zoo in Australia that has giant pandas. Fu Ni (Lucky Girl) and Wang Wang (Net Net) arrived in November 2009. Adelaide is only a short flight, or an eight hour drive, from Melbourne so luckily I’ve been able to visit our resident pandas a few times. I was planning to visit them again two years ago, but the pandemic put our travel plans on hold. I didn’t think it would take so long to see them again but the wait was worth it.
Unfortunately Fu Ni didn’t make an appearance on the day we visited, but Wang Wang did. As soon as I saw his adorable face, and those black ears that look like they’ve been stuck on his head with a glue gun, I felt some some of my anger, pain and grief melt away. I happily watched Wang Wang sitting there eating his bamboo. He was so close I could hear him tearing the strips which he then shoved into his mouth. He seemed oblivious to the crowd until the woman next to me asked if she was blocking my view. Wang Wang stopped eating and stared at us, seeming eager to hear the answer himself. I was happy to let him know that no-one was blocking my view. Wang Wang gave me a long, hard stare and then went back to his feasting, Ieaving me with a lighter soul and a smile on my face.
March 16 is Panda Day. It is a day to celebrate our beloved giant pandas, though for some of us that’s everyday! 🙂 Panda Day is also a day to reflect on the important work being done to save these precious creatures from extinction.
To celebrate Panda Day, I thought I would explore the giant panda card in the World Animal Dreaming Oracle by Scott Alexander King. I bought this deck as I knew it had a red panda card which I’m hoping to explore on International Red Panda Day. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the deck also had a giant panda card. I was a little disturbed to discover this card was called Sorrow. However, to understand this card, you have to know the legend of how the giant panda came to have black and white fur.
There are a few variations of the legend, but my favourite version tells the story of a young shepherdess who protects a giant panda cub being attacked by a leopard. The brave shepherdess saves the panda, but during the struggle she is killed by the leopard. The cub returns safely to the other giant pandas, who in this legend are as white as snow. When they hear about the death of the shepherdess they are heartbroken. As a sign of respect for her sacrifice, the pandas attend her funeral. As was the custom, the pandas cover their arms in black ash. As they weep, they rub their eyes with their paws, wiping away their tears and staining their fur with black ash. To block out the sound of crying, they cover their ears with their paws, staining their ears with black ash. To deal with their grief, they hug each other, spreading the ash from their arms to their legs. To remember the shepherdess and her sacrifice, the pandas decide to never wash the ash from their fur. They have kept their black and white markings to this day.
So now you know why Sorrow is a fitting theme for the giant panda in the World Animal Dreaming Oracle. Thankfully the giant panda card has a lovely meaning. According to Scott, the giant panda reminds us of our compassion, empathy and sensitivity to the suffering of others. The giant panda also teaches us to be careful of not burning ourselves out with the weight of our concerns and responsibilities. We can care for the world, but not at the expense of our own emotional state. The giant panda is here to support us, especially when we value ourselves as much as we value others. I think this is a beautiful interpretation of our beloved pandas.
For this Panda Day, I’ll be celebrating the legend of how the panda became the black and white beauty of the bear world, by enjoying a nice slice of white cheese rolled in black ash. In true panda style I’ll also be enjoying a cup of bamboo leaf tea.
March 16 is Panda Day – not to be confused with International Red Panda Day which is celebrated in September. Panda Day is a day to celebrate the beloved black and white clowns of the bear world.
Pandas have meant a lot to me for many, many years. The first time I saw giant pandas in Australia was at Melbourne Zoo in 1988 when Fei Fei and Xiao Xiao toured Australia. I was so excited to see these almost mythical animals and they did not disappoint. They were much smaller than I expected but as cute and playful as I thought they’d be. The next time I saw giant pandas was at Adelaide Zoo in 2010 when I did a VIP tour to meet Fu Ni and Wang Wang. I got to pat them on their heads and feed them fruit, vegetables and panda cake through the bars of their enclosures. I then got to go into their outdoor enclosures and hide treats for them. It was an awesome experience! Happily I’ve been able to visit these fluff balls a few more times over the years. The cuddly pair are the first and only giant pandas (so far) to be loaned to an Australian zoo.
Being panda mad, I dreamed of going to China to visit pandas in their homeland. Finally my dream came true in 2013 when I went to China and met a one year old baby panda called Miao Miao. As I sat on a bench Miao Miao was placed next to me and I got to give her a cuddle and a couple of pats. The little panda seemed happy to meet her smiling fans – probably because she was rewarded with bamboo, apples and honey! I got to tour a few panda centres and enjoyed seeing the black and white bears in their homeland. It really was a trip of a lifetime.
Coincidentally, Panda Day falls close to the Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere and the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere. The equinoxes symbolise balance as do the black and white colours of the giant panda. So while the world goes mad, grab some balancing vibes and stay calm by thinking of pandas. 🙂