Gantan-sai is the official and cultural New Year’s Day in present day Japan. It is observed on the first day of the Gregorian calendar i.e. the 1st of January and is the annual New Year celebration of the Shinto religion.
This festival concentrates on the deep unrecognized awareness and respect for the divine energy that permeates all forms of life. It is one of the most significant yearly festivals in Shintoism.
Though the New Year is predominantly celebrated on the first day of the year, traditionally the Shinto’s celebrate Gantan-sai for a prolonged span of seven days.
Just like Christmas is for Christians, Gantan-sai is for the Japanese and it has evolved into a national holiday in Japan being referred to as the Japanese New Year or Shogatu.
- Before the Meiji period, this was the official date of the Japanese New Year.
- This was decided every year according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar and hence the date varied each year.
- However, in 1873, five years since the Meiji Restoration, the people of Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar and fixed the date of Japanese New Year or Shogatu to be the 1st of January every year, and it has been so ever since.
WHAT IS SHINTOISM?
- Shintoism is native to Japan and was the official religion of the Japanese at one point of time. It is an ancient religion and does not have a founder.
- The term ‘Shinto’ means the ways of Gods. It is associated with the worship of the Shinto Gods or Kami.
- Kami refers to the spirits of nature particularly the spirits that reside in trees, waterfalls, rocks, rivers and other components of nature.
- Shintoism is all about strengthening the connection between the beauty of nature and the people of Japan.
- There are around four million followers of the Shinto religion all over the world.
- This religion came into existence 2000 years before Christianity and does not involve any scriptures or deity.
- The four pronouncements that the Shinto’s follow are 1) Love of Nature, by which all natural objects are revered and worshipped, 2) Traditions and family, by which all the families preserve the traditions of Shintoism, 3) Matsuri, which is a festival honoring the spirits of nature and 4) Physical Cleanliness, according to which all followers must keep themselves and their surroundings clean.
TRADITIONS AND PRACTICES
During this festival, most Shinto’s spend the holiday by visiting sacred Shinto temples at the hour of midnight.
During this visit, they wear their finest clothes and pray that their hearts be renewed and purified of all dirt and uncleanliness.
- Blessings for health, happiness and prosperity are also requested for the upcoming year.
- This festival also witnesses friends and families coming together to wish well for each other.
- On this day, people eat traditional food with their families.
- Gantan-sai day meals involve a special compilation of dishes known as “Osechi”.
- The typical New Year Day menu comprises of dishes like 1) Ozoni a soup, 2) Mochi with vegetables, 3) Kamabokoa puree of steamed white fish, 4) Kurikinton mashed sweet potato with chestnut and 5) Kuromame sweet black beans.