Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a new year. And you all must have taken the Christmas decorations down by now. I want to tell you about the Japanese new year’s decoration today.
Three typical items
There are various kinds of a new year’s decoration, however, the below three are typical items for a new year’s decoration.
- Katomatsu (Matsu kazari)
- Shime kazari
- Kagami mochi
Kadomatsu is a mark for a year God to be able to visit each household.
If it is a house then it is ideal to put kadomatsu on both sides of an entrance (the picture below). However if you live at a flat, outside of the entrance is a shared areas by other residents, it is advisable to avoid from putting the Kadomatsu. A miniature Kadomatsu (the picture above) or hand-made kits made of a paper or felt are also available so that they can display inside the entrance door.
SHIME KAZARI （しめ飾り）
A shime kazari is a just like the one at a shrine, it has a meaning of 「a barrier that separates the sanctuary from this world」. It is put on an entrance door as high as possible. In a case of a flat with a shared areas it would be better to ask its management for a rule.
KAGAMI MOCHI （鏡餅）
A Kagami mochi is an offering to a year God and also a Yorishiro 「依り代」where God dwells.
A yorishiro in Shinto terminology is an object capable of attracting spirits called kami, thus giving them a physical space to occupy during religious ceremonies. Yorishiro are used during ceremonies to call the kami for worship. The word itself literally means “approach substitute”. Wikipedia
For those who are not be able to make mochi there is an artificial kagami mochi available to buy.
After the new year’s days pass and send the year God off, take the kazamemochi down and eat them with families in order to receive God’s power, this event is called Kagami biraki「鏡開き」.
When to put Japanese new year’s decoration on?
It has been said that anytime after 13th of December should be good. However there are two days which we should avoid.
- 29th December – 29th (nijyu ku) is better to be avoided because it leads “Nijyuku”（二重苦）, which means double sufferings.
- 31st December – it has been said to be a bad luck because it is just only one day to a new year’s day.
People might started decorating after a Christmas.
When to take them off?
In general 7th of January is the day to take them off except some Kansai areas, which is to be 15th.
How do dispose them?
It has been said to dispose them after [Matsu no uchi・松の内]. Matsuno no uchi is a period for that the new year’s decorations are displayed.
There is a festival called [don don yaki] which burn those new year’s decorations and send the year God to heaven. At the same time they cook Kagami mochi and eat them. (I will explain about its event more in details in my next blog).
It is not possible for some people to participate the festival because there is no festival around the areas they live or just inconvenient to join. It is still OK to dispose them and put them in a bin. In that case, open a news paper and put salt on the left, the right and the middle to purify it. After that wrap the new year’s decorations with the news paper and put them a plastic bag separately from other rubbish and put them in a bin.
The twelve Branches animals (Jyuni shi)
There are 12 months a year. In Japan we use an ordering system of the twelve Earthly Branches. And this year is a tiger year. Every year Japanese displays or uses the earthly branches image of the year animal on a greeting card as well.
The twelve Earthly Branches are Ne (a mouse), ushi (a cow), tra (a tiger). u (a rabit), tatsu (a dragon), mi (a snake), uma (a horse), hitsuji (a sheep), saru (a monky), tori (a chiken), inu (a dog), i (a wild boar). (十二支は、子・丑・寅・卯・辰・巳・午・未・申・酉・戌・亥です。)
The Japanese buys a daruma prior to a new year with wishes and hopes that the new year will be fantastic year to them. Some of daruma have no eyes on them. Each time any blessing thing happens my father used to draw a eye with a black ink. However, according to an expert, it would be good to have both eyes from the beginning because the eyes has a protection power from evils. If we buy the daruma with no eyes it would be better to draw eyes as quickly as possible. Putting them anywhere facing toward the entrance to protect from evils.
Hope you enjoy reading my blog.