Shinto Holiday Celndar is more an emphasis on the traditions, rituals, rites and customs that are upheld by the Shinto community of people upholding the Shinto religion.
But not all of us are aware of who the Shinto people are and what their rituals traditions and principles could be. Let us then first take a look and understand what the Shinto religion is all about.
Shinto also known as kami-no-michi, is a Japanese religion, which while focusing on ritual practices are really an effort to build a connection between the present day Japan to the ancient glorious past of Japan.
Shinto is an ethnic group from Japan, the one which is more action oriented than many other religion around the world. The Japanese word kami-no-michi, literally means ‘the way of the God conveyed from the ancient times”.
It is believed that the Shinto religion have been in existence from about 500 BC. The first historical records of Shinto are found in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki in the 8th century. The Shinto believers are polytheistic and believes in more than one God. These Gods are known as Kami. They believe that God or Kami is prevalent in numerous objects, like trees, flora, fawna, river, rocks etc. they also firmly believe that each human being has some God like quality or Kami in them. according to the Shinto people, Godliness or Kami cannot be distinguished separately rather it should be perceived or cultivated amongst all of us.
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The Shinto religion followers firmly believe that there os Godliness or Kami in all of us and those godliness or virtues should be nurtured. The prayers for Shintp is known as Norito and the prayers are said to be dedicated to all the Gods, instead of praying to any one.
In the Shinto altar, or the prayer place, almost all the Gods are present; and a variety of things are kept in that altar, representing different things. For example a mirror is kept as it can reflect the light and thus for Sun, swords or jewelry are kept as a reminder of royalty and the altar is the place to hold such elevated things and not things which are not mundane but special. According to the Shinto belief there are 8 million forms of Kami . their faith is much influenced by Taoism, Buddhism, local beliefs, various other religious practices etc.
Let us have a look at the Shinto Holiday calendar to have a comprehensive idea about rituals, beliefs etc of the Shinto people.
- January 1, Oshogatsu (or Shogatsu)- Sunday – This is the day traditionally the New Years day is celebrated by the Shinto believers. People on this auspicious day visit the shrines and pray for Godly favors and asks for boons. They also make resolutions that will make them better in the coming year.
- January 7, Koshogatsu – this is an auspicious day for the Shinto community. On this day they pray to Goddess Izanami, who is the partner of the great God Izanagi. It is believed that their union gives rise to Kami which in turn gives rise to cosmic energies and the whole nature.
- January 15, Seijin Shiki (Adults’ Day)- This is an unusual celebration. All the Shinto followers who have attained the age of 20 commemorate this. They visit the shrines to seek blessings from the greater God and celebrates their first ever steps to adulthood.
- February 3rd , Rissun (Setsubun)- This is a joyous day when the Shinto believers celebrate the changes of season with much joy and passion. They celebrate the arrival of spring and they throw roasted beans in the hope that in this way all the evils will be driven away. The priest throws the roasted beans at the shrine and at home this is done by the eldest member of the family.
- February 17, Toshigoi – on this auspicious day the Shinto community prays and offers heartfelt thanks to Kami and prays that they be given a good harvest. This observes the separation of winter with spring.
- March 3, Joshi-no-Sekku or Hina-matsuri (Festival of Dolls or Girls’ Day)- This is a festival which is dedicated to the daughters of the family, by honoring girls. People on this day for the long life and good health of the girl children and on a multi tiered platform covered in red; they put various types of girl dolls. These dolls are then offered different types of foods such as rich cakes, fruits, peach blossoms etc.
- March 21, Shubun-sai (Equinox Day)- This day is for remembering the dear departed. In remembering the deceased people , the Shinto believers also give themselves the life lessons to rejuvenate and live once again. The houses are cleaned and people visit the graves of the loved ones with flowers as a mark of respect. This has an association with Buddhism.
- May 3, Taue Matsuri – on this day Rice is acknowledged. This is a day when planting rice is considered to be auspicious and thus rice plants are planted so that a good harvest can be expected.
- May 5, Tango-no-Sekku – Just like the day for girls, this is a day for boys. This is the day when the well being of the boys of the family are prayed for. The Shinto followers pray that the boys remain well, and no amount of ill luck may befall them.
- June 30, Oharai/ Grand Purification Festival- This festival is for eliminating all kind of evil from within selves and bring in purification.
- November 15, Shichigosan (7-5-3 festival)– this festival is a homage to the children of the family. This is often celebrated on the Sunday closest to or on 15th November, so that parents too can enjoy with them.
- November 23, Niinamesei – This is the National Festival in Japan and was originally meant as a Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally this was the Thanks Giving day. The Royal family paid tributes and expressed gratitude for havng a good and bountiful harvest. Previously the society being agriculture based or agrarian, people were more dependent on harvest. The rituals now have come to respect all those who put in a hard work.
- Annual Festival (Rei-sai) – Apart from this the annual festival or Rei-sai is celebrated by the Shinto people. People on this day set up Mini shrines called Mikoshi and take out a divine procession called shinko sai.. this is the celebration for showing your heartfelt respect for the enshrined Kami. Special rites are also performed.