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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Daily Life
Shōgatsu
These are the various events in the first month of the year held to greet the new year. Besides the usual hatsumōde, there are imperial rituals like the shihōhai and the saitansai, community rituals, and family rituals like the nenga (New Year's Cards) and the otoshidama (gifts of money). According to the old calendar based on the phases of the moon, shōgatsu was on "mochi no hi" or "the full moon of the fifteenth day." Today, that day is now called koshōgatsu, or "little New Year's." When the new calendar was adopted, the tradition of celebrating shōgatsu on sakutan, or "the first day of the month," spread among the populace, and the ancient koshōgatsu and ōshōgatsu ("the New Year proper") came to co-exist. Ōshōgatsu events in most places begin on December thirteenth, the day of commencement being called ōshōgatsu hajime or shōgatsu kotohajime. By nightfall of that day households should have cut down the toshiki (New Year's decorative tree serving as the yorishiro for the New Year's kami), represented by the kadomatsu (the pine sprig adorning the main entrance), and should have cleaned the house. On the twenty-eighth, families usually pound mochi and set up the toshidana (New Year's altar) in their main tatami living room. Other elements of ōshōgatsu celebration generally range from eating special foods (such as a boiled rice cakes known as zōni,) and performing "first" thanksgiving rituals (such as one's first shrine visit known as hatsumōde, and one's first drawing of water known as wakamizu kumi) on New Year's day itself, to drinking a "seven-grass soup" known as nanakusagayu on January seventh. In koshōgatsu celebrations, which primarily occur on the fifteenth, the kezuribana and mayudana decoration are made. In the northeastern part of Japan, there are kami visitation events such as the namahage; fire festivals like the tondo; divinations for wealth or calamity known as toshiura; and performances of magic incantations such as the narigizeme and torioi (bird hunting). The events of Shōgatsu are often compared to the events of Obon. In addition to the fact that shōgatsu is about greeting the Toshigami and Obon is about greeting one's ancestral spirits, people have pointed out many other similarities shared by these two events that divide the year in two. For example, shōgatsu has the altar for the Toshigami and for the ehō (auspicious direction), and Obon has the festival altar for the souls. Shōgatsu has the pine welcoming and the sagichō (fire ritual) and Obon has the Bon-flower welcoming and the send-off fire. Therefore, they both welcome the kami and send them off with comparable events.

— Iwai Hiroshi
One example of New Year's worship practices, in this case the tsukurizome (beginning of work) performed at a farm house. The man tills the earth and makes a mound, places a yorishiro on the mound into which the kami can enter, and then presents a pyramid-shaped offering made of two glutenous rice cakes topped with a mikan orange (kagamimochi) before it.

Wakayama prefecture, 2006

©Fujii Hiroaki

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