Tokyo Christmas and New Year - lucky sheep / 29 December 2014
One of our Christmas day deliveries was the bunch of New Year flowers. An assortment of yellow blooms with greenery, including the all important branch of a pine tree. Traditional beliefs held that the gods visited the earth at this important time and lived in the pines trees until the New Year.
Good wishes for the New Year arrive frequently and include plaited rice stalks or straw, rather like a corn dolly, with good luck messages and prayers, which we hang on the front door.
Big businesses have their pairs of Kadomatsu, pine branches (gathered on or after 13 December), with three lengths of bamboo, bound with tree bark or straw and tied with decorative straw plaits. These year-end, New Year 'welcomes' to the gods seem also to function as status symbols prominently placed at the front entrances. Kadomatsu are traditionally taken to the temples to be burnt around the 15th of January, thus releasing the gods back to their own environment.
Department stores are also full of imaginative displays in their windows and inside, usually including elaborate versions of the rice 'corn dollys' and the colors red and white.
Decorated figures representing the 12 animal zodiac signs are prominent, the outgoing Horse being replaced by the wood Sheep, the third of the three fire cycle animals. The sheep is a lucky animal.
Taking care of the mystery,
shaping the unknown to fit in the
palm of my hand: offering rice
pudding and cinnamon to the
Julenisser, respecting the
pine branches of Toshigami-sama;
attempting to manipulate
fortune in my favour; watching
sunrise on auspicious mornings.
Keeping a wide eye on my world,
reminding myself of whimsy;
as good as marking crosses on
strips of paper placed in secret
boxes subject to rituals
of counting and a fickle lack
of human kindness. No better,
no worse, but much more satisfying.