New Year decorations
New Year decorations
I always find the attitude of Japanese people in dealing with different cultures and customs interesting. One example is what they do during the period between Christmas and New Year holidays. In western countries we prepare the Christmas tree and other decorations and keep them until January 6,, the Epiphany day, to give time to the Magi Kings to arrive to Jesus birthplace and to bring him some presents.
Japanese use to celebrate the Christmas event without knowing so much about it; mostly it is a commercialism and at the same time a romantic event for the young. In November, shops and streets are decorated beautifully while “Jingle Bells” is played everywhere.
In Japan the night of December 25 is a busy, long night for some people: after shops are shut, all the Christmas decorations are removed and replaced with Japanese New Year’s decorations. From now on the pure Japanese spirit can be seen in the decorations used to celebrate the most important festivity of the year, called “Oshogatsu”.
At both side of an entrance door pine little tree with roots
Kadomatsu , literally means “Gate pine”, is a popular decoration placed in pair outside the main gate of houses, or at the entrance of shops, offices. The bigger the more expensive.
It dates back more than four hundred years and people believed that it warded off the evil spirits in the coming new year. At that time people followed the lunar calendar (the Gregorian calendar was adopted in the year 1867). The Kadomatsu is considered the temporary house for the “Kami”, gods, and to welcome the “Toshigami”, the god of new year who brings blessings.
It is kept at the front door from December 26 to January 7. In general on January 15 it is burned to release the gods.
Rice cake or paper made flowers
It is composed by three pieces of bamboo diagonally cut, tied together with a straw rope, in three different heights to represent the heaven (the highest), the human being (the middle) and the earth, (the shortest). Pine branches are used to complete the composition. Bamboo symbolizes growth and strength while pine represents long life and endurance. Sometime plum brunches are used too, the little flowers give a touch of grace to the whole decoration.
Nowadays it is possible to buy little kadomatsu made of plastic at 100Yen shop, just for fun.
I enjoy discovering new kinds of Kadomatsu, and ornaments during my walks.
If you are in Kyoto in this period, please pay attention to the front door decorations: you will find superstition and tradition mixed in the daily life of Japanese people.