When a new year has come, all people in the world celebrate the new year. I think, however, Japanese people celebrate the new year the most diligently of all countries in the world.
In Japan, December 28 is the last business day of the year, and the New Year holiday continues till at least January 3.
The people of old Japan thought that Toshigami-sama (a Shinto God usually existing in nature) visits their village or houses to give them a good harvest and good fortune at the beginning of the new year. So, we have a custom to pray at the first sunrise of the year.
Here, I’d like to introduce to some customs and traditions in New Year events in Japan.
Kadomatsu (A New Year’s pine or a gate pine tree)
It is a sign showing the main entrance of one’s house to Toshigami-sama.
Now, almost all of the shops and stores paste a printed poster to their entrances instead of displaying a Kadomatsu.
Shimekazari (Japanese wreath of sacred straw)
It shows that this place is a holy place proper for greeting Toshigami-sama.
Kagamimochi (round rice cakes, stacked on top of each other)
They are rice cakes specifically made for offering to Toshigami-sama, and show a place where Toshigami-sama belongs in the house.
Decorations in New Year
Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement)
Ikebana in the New Year is made so as to be gorgeous using red-and-white strings and gold or silver-dyed branches together with flowers and grasses.
In addition, there are decorations that we can see only at the beginning of the new year.
Osechi (special dishes prepared for Toshigami-sama)
It is food to offer to Toshigami-sama, and we eat it together with him to get good fortune.
Hatsumode (first visit of the year to a shrine/temple)
We acknowledge the peace of the last year and ask for good fortune in the new year. Every shrine or temple is filled with a lot of people from the first to third days of January every year.
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