Shinto holy day marking a new year. On this day the faithful visit shrines to thank the kami (spirits within objects in the Shinto faith), ask the kami for good fortune, and make resolutions for the year ahead.
Traditionally, Shinto practitioners observe this New Year holiday by visiting the shrines, mostly at midnight and praying for the renewal of their heart, prosperity and health in the year to come. It is also common to visit close friends and family to express good wishes.
This festival concentrates on the deep unrecognized awareness and respect for the divine energy that permeates all forms of life. It is one of the most significant yearly festivals in Shintoism.
Though the New Year is predominantly celebrated on the first day of the year, traditionally the Shinto’s celebrate Gantan-sai for a prolonged span of seven days.
Much like Christmas for Christians, Gantan Sai has become a national holiday in Japan and expanded out past the Shinto religious practices and evolved into a national holiday. It is referred to as the Japanese New Year or Shogatu .It is observed on the first day of the Gregorian calendar i.e. the 1st of January and is the annual New Year celebration of the Shinto religion.
Originally, the date of the Japanese New Year was decided according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar and the date varied each year. However, in 1873, five years since the Meiji Restoration, the people of Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar and fixed the date of Japanese New Year or Shogatu to be the 1st of January every year, and it has been so ever since.
Traditions and Practices:
During this festival, most Shinto’s spend the holiday by visiting sacred Shinto temples at the hour of midnight.
During this visit, they wear their finest clothes and pray that their hearts be renewed and purified of all dirt and uncleanliness.
- Blessings for health, happiness and prosperity are also requested for the upcoming year.
- This festival also witnesses friends and families coming together to wish well for each other.
On this day, people eat traditional food with their families. Gantan-sai day meals involve a special compilation of dishes known as “Osechi”. The typical New Year Day menu comprises of dishes like Ozoni a soup, Mochi with vegetables, Kamabokoa puree of steamed white fish, Kurikinton mashed sweet potato with chestnut and Kuromame sweet black beans.
According to Japanese Buddhist belief, every summer at this time spirits of the dead return to visit their families. O-Bon is a Buddhist ceremony for welcoming back and appeasing the souls of our ancestors.
During the course of this festival, the souls of the dead are guided home, feted for several days, and then sent back to the spirit world.
The formal name of this festival is Ura-Bon, and generally falls on Aug 13 thru Aug 15. Depending on the region, however, the Bon Festival may be held one month earlier, or July 13th-15th.
The word O-Bon has its roots in the Sanskrit word ullambana, which means ‘deliverance from suffering’. The festival combines early Buddhist rituals designed to rescue the souls of the dead from hell, with native Japanese agricultural rites and the Shinto tradition of welcoming back the souls of ancestors in late summer.
Traditionally, the bones of the deceased are placed in individual urns and kept with their ancestors in a family tomb (ohaka). For several consecutive evenings during the week of O-Bon, paper lanterns painted with the family crest are hung to guide the ancestral spirits to the ohaka.
Alternatively, small welcoming fires (mukaebi) may be lit at the entrance to the home, or in front of the gate early on the evening of the 13th to receive the souls of the ancestors.
It is also customary at this time to clean the family grave and present fresh flowers and incense. Those who are unable to travel to their family burial place may instead spruce up the domestic altar. Houses are cleaned and decorated and a place is sometimes set at the family table for the recently departed.
Although many Japanese also hold Shinto beliefs, it is Buddhism that is associated with rituals concerned with death. Therefore it is the Buddhist household altar — the butsudan — that remains the focus of attention during O-Bon.
Offering stands and a small tray with tiny dishes for the symbolic meals offered to the ancestors are brought out, and a special shelf (Shoryodana or ‘Shelf of Souls’) is set up in front of the altar; it is here that, for the duration of O-Bon, the spirits are believed to dwell.
At the end of three days (on the 16th), the lanterns are again set out to guide the spirits back, and an okuribi (farewell) fire is lit to see off the souls of the ancestors.
Collected from various sources including Mythic Maps
Because the warm weather continues, activity levels are high, even though the days are beginning to shorten. Consequently, numerous festivals during this month focus on family, friends, and social interaction.
For magical purposes, July directs our attention to personal growth and improvements. This includes increasing your knowledge, continuing efforts for prosperity, creating new ideas and works of art, and also taking time out periodically to really enjoy yourself. Our society sometimes mistakes much-needed leisure time for laziness but this months’s energies know better. Go and have fun, carrying the Goddess with you for a little extra energy.
- Nature Spirits: hobgoblins (small grotesque but friendly brownie-type creatures), faeries of harvested crops.
- Herbs: honeysuckle, agrimony, lemon balm, hyssop
- Colors: silver, blue-gray
- Flowers: lotus, water lily, jasmine
- Scents: orris, frankincense
- Stones: pearl, moonstone, white agate
- Trees: oak, acacia ash
- Animals: crab, turtle, dolphin, whale
- Birds: starling, ibis, swallow
- Deities: Khepera, Athene, Juno, Hel, Holda, Cerridwen, Nephtys, Venus
Relaxed energy; preparing, succeeding. Dream work; divination and meditation on goals and plans, especially spiritual ones.
At first the Romans called this month Quintilis, but later renamed it Julius after Julius Caesar, who was born in this summer month. The Greek Olympian was held for about a week in July. This festival in honor of Zeus consisted of competitions in athletics, drama, music, and other activities. During the time of the Olympian, all participants were given safe-conduct to and from the games. The constant petty Greek squabbles were put aside. A victory in the Olympian was a great achievement, both for the individual and for their city.
Two of the Roman holidays held during this month were July 8 – 9 when the Goddess Juno was honored and the Neptunalia on July 23, when Neptune, the god of the seas and earthquakes, was placated.
In Japan, the Full Moon of July saw the O-Bon, or Festival of Lanterns. This was a combination of Buddhist and Shinto beliefs that honored the dead. Homes, tombs, and ancestral tablets were thoroughly cleaned. Altars and shrines were decorated. The gardens were hung with lanterns to light the way of the dead so that they could join with their families for the three-day ceremony.
The Egyptian New Year fell in July, as did the Opet Festival, which commemorated the marriage of Isis and Osiris. Their sexual union was said to bring good luck to all people. About the same time in Rome, the love of Venus and Adonis was celebrated. The Egyptian year was measured against the Nile and its yearly fertile floods. This was also the time of the birth of Isis and Nephthys, Osiris, Set, and Haroeris. These days were the ones won by Thoth for these deities; births; in other words, there were the necessary days to make the solar and lunar calendars match.
The Incas had a ceremony called Chahua-huarquiz, Chacra Ricuichi, or Chacra Cona, which meant Plowing Month. While the Northern Hemisphere was beginning its agricultural harvests with the reaping of the corn crop, the Southern Hemisphere was just beginning to break ground for planting.
Buddha’s Birth and Preaching, also called the Picture Feast, was celebrated in Tibet.
In the Hari-Kuyo ceremony, Japanese women gather once a year on Febuary 8th at Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples to thank their worn out needles and pins for good service.
It is also a time to value the small, everyday objects of daily living and to wish for progress in one’s needle work. In what is known as the Festival of Broken Needles, women gather to offer a funeral-type service by laying the needles to rest in soft jelly cakes or tofu. This burial is meant to bring rest to the needles and wrap them with tenderness and gratitude. This practice reflects the animist belief that all beings and objects have a soul.
Another aspect of the ceremony is the consideration for “the value of small things.” The concept of Mottainai, or not being wasteful, is related to the usefulness of the needles. These small but important tools would give long, useful service throughout the year. They were not to be lost or wasted nor carelessly replaced.
Further to the idea of laying the needles to rest for good service is the idea that women have many secret sorrows in life. These sorrows are often passed to the needles during long hours of stitching and the needles are thought to take on the burden of some of these sorrows, thus taking them away with the stitching that they do. This “rest” is brought to the needles in appreciation for their faithful service.
Source: Stitchtress Stumbles
The seventh day of the Chinese New Year, traditionally known as Rénrì (人日, the common man’s birthday), is the day when everyone grows one year older. In some overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is also the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng, is eaten for continued wealth and prosperity.
This day is filled with omens about human fate. For example, any person or animal born on this day is considered doubly blessed and destined for prosperity. So, consider taking out a divination tool today and seeing what fate holds for you.
In Chinese mythology, Nüwa is the goddess who created the world. She created the animals on different days, and human beings on the seventh day after the creation of the world. The order of creation is as follows:
- First of zhengyue: Chicken
- Second of zhengyue: Dog
- Third of zhengyue: Boar
- Fourth of zhengyue: Sheep
- Fifth of zhengyue: Cow
- Sixth of zhengyue: Horse
- Seventh of zhengyue: Human.
Hence, Chinese tradition has set the first day of zhengyue as the “birthday” of the chicken, the second day of zhengyue as the “birthday” of the dog, etc. And the seventh day of zhengyue is viewed as the common “birthday” of all human beings.
To generate Nüwa’s luck or organizational skills in your life, make and carry a clay Nüwa charm. Get some modeling clay from a toy store (if possible, choose a color that suits your goal, like green for money). If you can’t get clay, bubblegum will work, too. Shape this into a symbol of your goal, saying:
From Nüwa blessings poured,
Luck and order be restored.
Renri is the day, when all common men are growing a year older and the day is celebrated with certain foods according to the origin of the people. The ingredients of the dishes have a symbolic meaning and they should enhance health.
To honour Nüwa’s creation of animals either vegetable dishes will be eaten or a raw fish and vegetable salad called yusheng. Yusheng literally means “raw fish” but since “fish (鱼)” is commonly conflated with its homophone “abundance (余)”, Yúshēng (鱼生) is interpreted as a homonym for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.
Almost no Chinese celebrate on this day. Some people just eat potatoes with angel hair noodle. The long noodle stands for longevity. In the past, seven vegetables which can repel the evil spirits and sickness away were eaten. They are as follows:
- Celery, Shepherd’s Purse Spinach, Green Onion, Garlic, Mugwort and Colewort
Ancient Chinese had a tradition of wearing head ornaments called rensheng, which were made of ribbon or gold and represented humans. People also climbed mountains and composed poems. Emperors after the Tang dynasty granted ribbon rensheng to their subjects and held festivities with them. If there were good weather on Renri, it was considered that people will have a year of peace and prosperity.
Fireworks and huapao are lit, so Renri celebrates the “birthday” of fire as well.
Since the first days of zhengyue are considered “birthdays” of different animals, Chinese people avoid killing the animals on their respective birthdays and punishing prisoners on Renri.
Nowadays in zhengyue, Renri is celebrated as part of the Chinese New Year. Chinese people prepare lucky food in the new year, where the “seven vegetable soup,” “seven vegetable congee” and “jidi congee” are specially prepared for Renri. Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese use the “seven-colored raw fish” instead of the “seven vegetable soup”.
In Japan, Renri is called Jinjitsu. It is one of the five seasonal festivals. It is celebrated on January 7. It is also known as Nanakusa no sekku, “the feast of seven herbs”, from the custom of eating seven-herb kayu to ensure good health for the coming year.
The celebration of the feast in Japan was moved from the seventh day of the first lunar month to the seventh day of January during the Meiji period, when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar.
In Japan, January 1st is the Shichi Fukujin, the Celebration of the Seven Deities of Luck.
Shichi Fukujin is usually translated as “Seven Spirits of Good Fortune,” but literally means “Seven Happiness Beings.” Six are male and one is female (Benten). Each is an important, powerful spirit. They hail from different traditions. Unlike the comparable Seven African Powers, they do not all derive from the same spiritual base. Some are Shinto, some Buddhist; Hotei originally derives from Chinese Taoist traditions, but wherever they came from, all are now significant to Japanese folk religion.
Each of the Shichi Fukujin is venerated independently. Some are also venerated in smaller groupings. (Daikoku and Ebisu are frequently paired.) They are most frequently depicted all together sailing in their treasure ship, the Takarabune. The Seven Spirits provide blessings of health, h appiness, protection, and longevity and everything that is good and desirable in life. If invoked together they are able to provide all blessings.
The Shichi Fukujin are:
- Benton: goddess of love, music, eloquence, fine arts
- Bishamonten: god of happiness and long life
- Daikoku: god of prosperity
- Ebisu: patron of work
- Fukurokujo: god of happiness and long life
- Hotei Osho: god of good fortune
- Jurojin: god of longevity and happy old age
The seven sail into our realm during New Year’s festivities to distribute gifts to the worthy. Place an image of the treasure ship complete with all Shichi Fukujin under your pillow on New Year’s Eve to receive a lucky dream.
Their imagery is ubiquitous in Japan, extending even as far as on children’s undewear. Next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant, look around: it’s likely that you’ll find the Shichi Fukujin in residence. Envision yourself cruising along with them, and beseech their blessings.
Shichi Fukujin sushi is a beautiful roll containing seven smaller rolls.
Iconography: Many prints and sculptures depict the seven sailing on their treasure ship on the Sea of Good Fortune. Individual alter images are also available.
Sacred sites: A pilbramage route in Kamakura, Japan, involves visiting seven shrines, each associated with one of the Shichi Fukujin.
From: Encyclopedia of Spirits
There is a festival in Japan on May 28 during which vendors sell insects in tiny bamboo cages. Those who purchase the diminutive pets keep them in or near the house during the summer months so that they can hear their songs in the evening. Then, on a day in late August or early September, they gather in public parks and at temples or shrines to set the insects free. When the creatures realize they have been released, the former captors listen to them burst into their individual sounds.
The custom of freeing the insects, also known as the Insect-Hearing Festival, is more common in the countryside. Although no one seems to know its exact origin, it is reminiscent of Italy’s Festa del Grillo, where crickets are purchased in cages and kept as good luck tokens or harbingers of spring.
A picturesque rite passed down from feudal days, this festival is held in temple and shrine precincts, public parks, and many gardens. People gather in these chosen spots where they take insects in tiny bamboo cages, some purchased from insect vendors for this ceremony, and set these insects free.
As part of the ceremony, the liberator waits for the insect to get its bearing, realize its freedom, then listen to it as it chirps.
May 25 is the Chinese and Japanese Celebration of the Tao – The Mother of the World. In Taoism, a great spiritual tradition of the East, the Goddess is perceived as the mother of the world, the Way to the heart.
On this day, burn incense to the Goddess and meditate on Divine Harmony. The whole philosophy of the Way (or Tao) in Chinese mysticism is essentially a respect for the truth in nature and her ways. It is also a belief that people must live in harmony with the Way and not destroy or interfere but, rather, flow with it. This, as they say, is:
“Holding fast to the Mother. She is the origin of all things and beings, born before heaven and earth. Silent and void she stands alone, does not change, goes round and does not weary, and is capable of being the mother of the world.”
~Tao Teh Ching
From: The Grandmother of Time