Japanese New Year’s Decorations

The New Year is upon us, and for many, there are some pretty high hopes for the coming year, given how… insane 2020 ended up being. I thought I’d take a minute to stop and take in the local sights around the neighborhood and look a little bit into their significance. Just a light and breezy examination of holiday decorations. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Bamboo: Kadomatsu (門松)

The first decoration is Kadomatsu, or literally translated, pine decoration. This one comes out on January 1st and hangs about for one week, although you’ll find them placed out sooner than that and find them hanging out past January 7th. The dates are a bit flexible.

Straw: Shimekazari (注連飾り)

Our second decoration looks a bit like a straw wreath with a few extra decorations to adorn it. These tend to be other auspicious or sacred objects to increase this decoration’s potency. It’s called Shimekazari (literally translated to “note consecutive decoration”) and it’s place out during the New Year’s season to ward off evil spirits. They also mark areas when the gods can descend, and if you remember my previous post, you can see how this all ties together!

Treat: Kagami Mochi (鏡餅)

Kagami Mochi, in all it’s glory!

Remember the deadliest food in Japan? Well, it has great significance during the New Year holiday season! It’s considered a sacred food, and usually takes the shape of the two domes with a daidai (bitter orange) on top. Our little guy is a figurine, and a cute one at that, so we can’t do the next bit. Usually, after the new year, the mochi is split into pieces either by hand or hammer and used to make a soup known as kagamiibaraki (鏡い開き, or mirror opening). It usually includes sweet red beans (azuki) and some sugar to add flavor to the otherwise bland mochi, and its said to grant a long life. If you don’t choke to death on it, that is.

And those are a few traditional decorations you can see around Japan on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day! Are there any fun New Year’s decorations where you’re from? Let us know in the comments below!

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