There are numerous festivals celebrated in Japan. Almost in every holy place the Japanese celebrates certain festivals in its own way. Most of these festivals are held annually and they celebrate the seasonal events. Many of the festivals are held over several days. Japan has always attached a lot of importance to their customs, culture and various rituals.
Before the Meji period in history, the Japanese New Year was celebrated and determined according to the Chinese lunar calendar. However since 1873 the Japanese adopted the Gregorian calendar and started following the 1st of January as the beginning of a new year.
The Japanese did not for many years consent to celebrate the New Year according to the modern Gregorian calendar. “Shogatsu “is the other name of this traditional new year festival. This is one of the most major events for the Japanese community celebrated the world over. These celebrations take place for half a month. 1st January Sunday is the day for them to celebrate the festival with lots of enjoyment and fanfare for the year 2017.
Usually with the countdown beginning for the New Year, the Japanese people start cleaning all the homes and business places much in advance. They decorate the places beautifully with pine, rice straw ropes and bamboo as they have a faith that once it is ready to celebrate the festival, the places are filled with positive vibes. An important element of Japanese festivals is sequence cavalcade where the Kami was carried through the town. Another festivals also show decorated floats which pulled through the town along with drum and flute music.
|January 1st – History||Chinese New Year||Hindu New Year|
|Hmong New Year||Islamic New Year||Japanese New Year|
|Jewish New Year||Korean New Year||Thai New Year|
|Persian New Year||Tibetan New Year||Vietnamese New Year|
|Buddhist Calendar||Sikh Calendar||Hindu Calendar|
|Muslim Calendar||Christian Calendar||Jewish Calendar|
|Bahai Calendar||Rastafari Calendar||Zoroastrian Calendar|
|Pagan Calendar||Jain Calendar||Shinto Calendar|
Every festival has its own feature. Some festivals are somber being meditative , quiet and peaceful while others are energetic and noisy. “Masturi” festival in Japan is generally sponsored by local holy place . They wear a typical masturi costume and carry a heavy Shrine around the street hoping it can bless the people and the whole of the town. Sometime an event held in a local area can also be a celebration of the Masturi. There could be a dance program or an artistic competition too during this phase.
Japanese New year celebrations are incomplete without visiting to their near ones. This is the perfect time to gather together with families. Shogatsu begins with the sound of temples bell ringing for exactly a108 times. Priests and monks are the ones who ring the bell . Generally the Japanese people believe that as per their Buddhist belief; that Japanese people commit 108 kinds of sins in their life time.
These sins keep them away from the attaining the ultimate honesty of life and Nirvana. Thus on this day the bells are rung 108 times to get rid of those sins committed on the last year and to usher in the New Year in a clean slate. one major attraction is the Watched Night Bell to be found in Tokyo.
This is also a time when Sitting on tatimi mats with all the family members, the Japanese take part in a grand feast of Japanese cuisine. In this ritual, the rule is that no one will fill up their own platter with food but will serve around others. The eldest person makes a speech for honoring the occasion. It is called Bonenkai.
People are served long noodles on the evening of Japanese New Year as this is believe that they are like wishing their long happy life. Mochi is the handmade rice cake which is a part of this occasion Ozoni, a soup made with mocha rice cakes are also traditionally eaten. Mochis are decorated and hung around in home and business places. These rice cakes are made before and on the New Year day and those are eaten by them. A seven herb rice soup is also eaten which gives the overworked stomachs some rest.
Many people visit to their families and friend as this is a tradition and a procedure. Many people are far from their family and friend so this is the time to visit their dear ones. A decorated postcards sent by each other of the wellbeing and wishes. Japanese postal system does a lot of effort to ensure that the cards reach their desired people on time. If someone passed away in one family they send cards to their relatives advance for requesting not to send any card to them in the coming occasion. It is called Nengyo as a mark of respect for the dead person’s soul. “Otoshidama” is a custom where elders of the family gift some money to the younger or children in this period.
The money is kept in an envelope and gifted by the elder persons. The amount of money depends on the age of the children. Business men also often gift small packet or envelopes to their customers. Shogatsu is a perfect occasion to visit holy places and make prayers for ushering in good times for the future. Offering are made to the divinity. Token gifts are given to the monks. This is a place to meet and greet neighbors. Many music concerts are organized for the occasion. Consuming some particular food items would make the upcoming New Year more favorable. Such foods are mocha, spiced sake, egg black beans fishcake etc. This is the time for fresh beginning and to take new resolutions to mark the occasion and to give a positive direction for them. In Japan New Year parties are interlinked with the celebration of New Year.
Most of them played cards, games and various board games. Kite flying is also a part of the festival. It is observed in January. Watching the rising sun is attached much important for symbolize filling up one’s life with lots of hope and happy life. This custom is known as Hatsumode. The final ritual marks the end of the new Year celebration for this particular day. A bonfire was arranged near the holy places. There people put the fire mementos from past during this festival. Amazaki sweet sake is often consumed by them. There are many kinds of Osechi in New Year. The Shinto shrine is the only busy place you will find on new year festival. Many people visit Buddhist temple on the night of 31st. fireworks are not used in this festival. It is the first holiday of the year. Festivals are often based around the event with food stalls entertainment and carnival games to keep people entertained.