The New Year is the most important holiday in Japan. It is a time for families to gather, but it is also an important event. It is our custom to cleanse our house and visit the temple to expel evil spirits so that on New Year’s Eve we can be ready to welcome Toshigami [god of the incoming year] and receive a blessing.”
Just like in the United States, Japan has many traditional decorations during this time of year. One important decoration is known as the kadomatsu, which means “gate pine.” The kadomatsu comes in pairs and is placed at the front door or gate of a home. Created to welcome the Shinto deity, Toshigami, it is displayed from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7.
“For the Japanese people, it is not just a decoration but a landmark for Toshigami to find us, visit, and give us blessings for the New Year,” said Nakamura.
As is customary in Japan, each portion of the kadomatsu has a meaning. The bamboo symbolizes prosperity; the pine, longevity; and, the plum branches and flowering kale represent constancy and fortune. Similarly, as Americans may celebrate the New Year with black-eyed peas for good luck, the kadomatsu represents new beginnings and invites favor from the Shinto deity.