Guest Author - Melanie Shintaku
The Japanese are a deeply religious people, they are very connected with their roots, so each month never passes without at least one celebration to honor the Kami, these festivals can either be spiritual or community based, festivals are also marked to honor the gods, as well as celebrate the health of family and friends.
Here is a list of events, that are annually celebrated in Japan, for the month of December.
December 3 - Chichibu Yo Matsuri, Chichibu Shrine, Saitama
The Chichibu Yo Matsuri is a night festival, which features a lot of exciting fireworks. The Chichibu Yo Matsuri festival also showcases a large parade, with the people carrying huge beautiful lanterns, all through the streets of Saitama.
On the 14th of December, a huge parade is held in Tokyo and all the participants of this parade, must be decked in traditional samurai dress, this parade is marked to honor the 47 Ronin, who had avenged the death of their master, Lord Asano. December 14th is the date the 47 Ronins committed seppuku (ritual suicide) after taking the head of Lord Kira. Celebrations for the parade are held, at Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo, which is the burial place of the 47 Ronin.
Kasuga Wakamiya Festival is centered around a deity called Ame-no-Oshikumone-no-Mikoto, it is celebrated on the 18th of December and has being celebrated, for over eight hundred and fifty years. The Kasuga Wakamiya Festival is yet another great oppurtunity, to witness the traditional performing arts of Japan and according to the festival's website Bugaku, Kagura and Noh, can all trace their origins to the Kasuga Wakamiya Festival.
The 23rd of December is the Japanese Emperor's birthday.
On the 31st of December, the people of Japan celebrate Oshogatsu which is New Year’s Eve, it is the largest celebration for the year, the Japanese consider a New Year celebrations, as the most important for that year and starting from the week, leading up to the first day in January, all Japanese are expected to clean their entire house, this is done to get rid of the old worries of the past year, so as to make way for new blessings in the coming year.
The Japanese also believe that, whatever happens on the first day of the year, is a sign or premonition for the rest of the days for that year, so one needs to be careful not to have, unfortunate things to happen, on the most important day of the year.
Mouth watering delicacies, such as food and drink, are prepared for this special holiday, gifts of money which is called Otoshi-dama, is shared amongst family and loved ones, the Otoshi-dama is also presented, in special decorated envelopes.
New Year's day in Japan, is spent visiting family and friends, the celebration is also not complete without a visit to the shrines and temples.