A Happy New Year !!
This time, I introduce about new year things of Japan.
Ringing the Old Year Out
Japanese consider December 31 a very important day, and it’s not unusual for people to stay up all night on this occasion. Old customs related to the last day of the year continue in many regions of Japan, but one of the most popular, which started in the Edo period (1603–1868), is eating soba buckwheat noodles. People eat soba on December 31, either for dinner or as an evening snack, to wish for a life that’s as long as the long, skinny noodles they’re eating. Eating soba past midnight, however, is to be avoided as this is believed to bring bad luck.
As midnight nears, the air is filled with the deep sound of temple bells being rung. The bells are rung 108 times as the old year fades out and the new year comes in. One explanation for the bell-ringing is that this is done to forswear the 108 human desires. Some temples allow ordinary people to ring their bells. Try it if you have the opportunity.
First Sunrise, First Prayer for Good Fortune in the New Year
In Japan, sunrise on New Year’s Day is believed to have special supernatural powers, and praying to the first sunrise of the year has become a popular practice since the Meiji era (1868–1912). Even today, crowds gather on mountaintops or beaches with good views of the sunrise to pray for health and family wellbeing in the new year. Another custom still observed today is visiting a temple or shrine at New Year’s. Even people who do not ordinarily go to shrines or temples in everyday life go at New Year’s to pray for their health and their families’ happiness. Many young women take this opportunity to dress up in vividly colored kimono, a touch that adds to the festive atmosphere. When praying at a Shinto shrine, the usual way is to bow twice, clap hands twice, and then bow once more. At a Buddhist temple, one simply places the palms of the hands together in silent prayer, with no clapping.
A few days after Christmas, the entrances to many homes, stores and buildings in Japan are decorated with a pine and bamboo kadomatsu. This decoration is prepared to welcome the Shinto gods and derives from the Shinto belief that the god spirits reside in trees. Furthermore, the display of pine, which stays green even in winter, and bamboo, which grows quickly and is ramrod-straight, expresses the desire to obtain virtue and strength to overcome adversity.
Entrances to ordinary homes are decorated with a shimenawa braided straw rope. Like the kadomatsu, it signifies that the home has been purified in order to welcome the gods.
After the New Year’s Eve temple bells have sounded and the first temple or shrine visit of the new year is made, many people return home to eat the o-sechi traditional foods at a meal for the whole family. O-sechi foods were originally offerings to the Shinto gods, but they are also “lucky” foods intended to bring happiness to the family. Each of the ingredients has a special significance, and the foods are prepared so that they will keep over the entire New Year period, which lasts nearly a week (Preparing foods that will keep for a while was also, in the past, intended to reduce work for housewives).
Someday, you should come to Japan in new year !!!