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.
The word January comes from the Roman name for this month; it was named after the god Janus who had two faces. This deity ruled over beginnings and endings, the past and future. Since January is reckoned as the first month of a new year, this connection with the god Janus is appropriate. It is an excellent time to work on putting aside the old and outdated in one’s personal life and making plans for new and better conditions.
Correspondences for January:
- Nature Spirits: gnomes, brownies
- Herbs: marjoram, holy thistle, nuts and cones
- Colors: brilliant white, blue-violet, black
- Flowers: snowdrop, crocus
- Scents: musk, mimosa
- Stones: garnet, onyx, jet, chrysoprase
- Trees: birch
- Animals: fox, coyote
- Birds: pheasant, blue jay
- Deities: Freyja, Inanna, Sarasvati, Hera, Ch’ang-O, Sinn
Power flow: sluggish; below the surface; A good time for spell work having to do with beginning and conceiving; protection; reversing spells; conserving energy by working on personal problems that involve no one else; getting your various bodies to work smoothly together for the same goals.
January Celebrations and Rituals:
The Chinese use the concept of putting aside the old and outdated in one’s personal life and making plans for new and better conditions in celebrating their New Year, which occurs on the first day of the New Moon when the Sun is in Aquarius. They considered this celebration a time for settling debts, honoring ancestors, and having family reunions. They carry paper images of dragons through the streets and set off fireworks to chase away evil entities and misfortune.
Tsao-Wang was the Chinese kitchen god or deity of the hearth and domestic comfort; his picture hung above the stove. He was the protector of the family and recorder of their actions and words. His report at the end of each year to the Heavenly Jade Emperor was said to determine the family’s coming fortune. Because of this, the Chinese burned the old picture-image and put up a new one a few days before New Year. His wife had the task of reporting on female family members.
Even the people of Tibet, whose year began about the end of January, had a celebration for expelling the Old Year. They made a dough image for the demons to inhabit, then worshiped them for seven days. At the end of that period, they took the image outside the village to a crossroad and abandoned it. The idea behind this seems to have been that the negative beings who had accumulated during the Old Year, received recognition for their existence, but also received a firm statement, by the action of leaving their image outside the village, that they were not welcome to hang around.
Most cultures had some ceremony for ending an old cycle of the calendar and celebrating the beginning of a new cycle. Physical activity acknowledging the end and beginning of cycles sets off similar changes in the subconscious mind. This change in the subconscious is necessary in order for actual physical changes to come about. Such rituals are helpful when one faces the end of cycles in relationships, career, residence, or other life situations.During the Feast of Kore, which was held at night with much feasting and dramatics, a group of initiates bearing torches went down into the goddess’s underground chamber. With much ceremony and reverence, they brought out the wooden statue of Kore, naked except for her golden jewelry. The statue was placed on a decorated litter and carried seven times around the temple. The Greeks considered that the number seven brought luck and success.
The Incan festival of Camay Quilla was held at the New Moon.
The Seven Deities of Luck in Japan were honored during a three-day festival called San-ga-nichi. To avoid good luck being swept away, there was no sweeping during this festival. These Seven Deities are also called Shichi Fukujin or Shichi-Kukujin, which means “Seven Gods of Happiness.” There are six gods and one goddess that make up this little group. They sail about in a treasure ship called a takarabune.
A branch of the plum-tree placed over the door at New Year’s is very luck bringing, as the tree is so beautiful and fruitful.
The orange is placed over the door in Japan on New Year’s day so that the family shall continue perpetually, and generation after generation shall follow each other like the buds, flowers, and fruit.
Cook cabbage on New Year’s day and you will have good luck all the year.
Decorated apples stuck on three skewers are exchanged for luck on New Year’s day in Great Britain.
It is lucky to have the last glass from the last bottle of wine on New Year’s.
At Bromyard, England, at midnight, December 31st, a rush is made to the nearest well or spring of water, and he who gets the first drink of it, “the cream of the well,” will have fine luck all the coming year.
The last glass of wine or spirits drained on New Year’s eve is called the “Lucky Glass,” and whoever is fortunate enough to get it, will be successful during the coming year.
In Japan oranges are hung up on New Year’s day as a charm to insure the long life of the family.
Just before midnight on New Year’s eve, the Chinese put on new or clean garments so as to enter the new year purely, and thus gain good fortune to themselves.
On New Year’s eve at Biggar, Lanarkshire, a large bonfire of thornbush is lit and kept burning all night, and the boys jump over it for luck during the year.
A present of money given in China at the end of the old year is an auspicious omen for the new year.
Money presents from members of a household to each other are strung on a red string as a symbol of joy.
New Year’s night quiet and clear indicates a prosperous year.
The Chinese think New Year’s day is the luckiest of the year.
If you leave a glass of wine standing between eleven and twelve on New Year’s night, and it runs over, the vintage will be good that year.
The Chinese say that if a man sits up for ten years in succession and sees the New Year come in, that he will have a very long life.
It is lucky to rise early on New Year’s morning.
If a person receives money on New Year’s day, it is a good omen, for they say that he or she will continue to do so all the year.
If the first carol singer who comes to the door on New Year’s morning, is brought in at the front door, taken all through the house, and let out at the back door, it will bring luck to the house for a year.
The Europeans as well as the Japanese hang the “lucky bag,” a square of white paper tied with a red and white string, over their gates on New Year’s day for luck.
If you put a coin into the spout of a pump on New Year’s eve, and bring it into the house the instant the clock has struck twelve, you will have a prosperous year.
The Germans have a superstition that if you serve “Hopping John” (peas and rice boiled together) at dinner on New Year’s day, you will be lucky all the year.
In China a small white cock is killed on New Year’s day, to bring good luck for the coming year.
It brings good luck to place a piece of money on the window on New Year’s eve.
A triangular cake, filled with mince meat, was formerly baked, and bits of it fed on New Year’s day to the cattle in Coventry, England, for good luck.
It is said to bring good luck through the year if you place a diamond, or a gold or silver coin, in a glass of water and drink of the water the first drink you take on New Year’s morning.
Feed the birds well on New Year’s morning by placing a sheaf of wheat or barley or some bread outside your house, then good luck will attend you, and good crops and prosperity come to you during the whole year.
To have peas for dinner on New Year’s day is said to bring money all the year.
The inhabitants of Heligoland have a custom on New Year’s eve to perambulate the streets with broken pots and pans which they place before their friends’ doors, and the man who has the largest heap is the luckiest and most popular.
For fishermen to draw blood with hook or gun on New Year’s morning is to insure a plentiful year.
It is considered good luck in England to sand the steps on New Year’s day.
On New Year’s eve the Chinese tie small gourds around the children’s necks as a safe-guard against the small pox. Some Chinese put paper masks on their children on New Year’s eve, believing that the small-pox god will pass them by, and not recognize them.
In Germany it is said that the person who eats millet and herring on New Year’s day, will never be wanting of money during the year. Others eat seven or eight kinds of cake, one of them made of powdered poppy seed mixed with flour and water, in order to insure prosperity during the new year.
In the neighborhood of Gorlitz and in the Ukermark, on New Year’s eve, straw bands are placed under the table and the guests rest their feet upon them; and afterwards they are taken out into the orchard and bound around the trees, so that they will bear well the next year. (German.)
In Turkey, on New Year’s Day, every stranger entering the house must throw salt on the fire for luck.
At midnight on New Year’s eve the Japanese father dressed in his richest attire sword in hand or sabre in his girdle, and with a box of roasted beans in his left hand, goes alone all through the house with his right hand scattering the wonderful beans around, saying: “Avaunt demons! Begone devils! Enter Fortune! Come in Prosperity!” This causes the evil spirits to leave.
The teacher in China who must send poems on New Year’s day to the parents of his pupils, sits on New Year’s eve writing them with a dish of rice and a vase of flowers before him on the table, these offerings to the sun causing him to write better rhymes.
To receive a letter containing good news on New Year’s day, is a sign of good news coming all the year.
“He who is born on New-Year’s morn
Will have his own way as sure as you’re born.”
In one locality in England, bands of straw were put under the feet on New Year’s day while at table. When the meal was finished, one person got under the table and another one sat on his back and drew out the bands of straw. These were taken to the orchard and bound around trees, which were thereby insured to bear a full crop of fruit the next year.
Place a gold coin on the threshold when you lock your door on New Year’s eve and take it off in the morning when the Church bell rings; you will then have money to spend all the year.
On New Year’s day cakes called “Poplady” were eaten for luck. They rudely resembled the human figure with two dried currants or raisins for eyes, and another to represent the mouth; the lower part being formed somewhat like the case of an Egyptian mummy. This cake is no doubt a relic of Egyptian or Roman superstition.
New Year’s night is celebrated in Hungary, the same as in most other countries, by much shouting and boisterousness generally. This is kept up all night, until daylight; to scare bad luck and evil spirits away, they say.
In Madagascar New Year’s is celebrated with much feasting and sacrificial killing of oxen takes place.
Chinese custom requires that every boy who calls on his neighbors or relatives on New Year’s day, should receive a couple of loose-skinned oranges, or he is considered shamefully treated. The name of orange means luck, fortune, and auspiciousness.
On New Year’s eve while the clock is striking twelve, repeat three times: “Good Saint Anne, good Saint Anne, send me a man as fast as you can,” and you will become engaged within a year.
At the beginning of the New Year in Natal, a ceremony is performed by the chief by spurting from his mouth a mixture of the New Year’s fruits in different directions as if upon his enemies. After this ceremony it is lawful for the people to eat the New Year’s fruits. They are only eaten by stealth before.
It was a custom of the Jews to serve up sheep’s head on New Year’s at their chief entertainment, as a mystical representation of the ram offered in sacrifice for Isaac. When a family or company sat down to this repast, each person took a piece of bread and dipping it in honey, said, “May this year be sweet and fruitful.”
In several parts of Belgium it is customary for the people to make waffles on New Year’s day. Around Liege the first waffle is crossformed or cut cross-wise, and placed on the chimney-piece as a New Year’s gift to the crucifix. It is believed that this waffle or cake is blessed; it does not rot and a small piece given to a sick man or beast makes them recover.
An old New Year’s custom which is still observed in some of the northern counties of England, is called “Going about with a vessel cup.” Poor women and girls desirous of obtaining charity take two dolls, representing the Virgin Mother and Infant Jesus, and go about from house to house during the week before New Year’s singing a quaint old carol and at its conclusion presenting for the receipt of alms a small cup, which is known as a “vessel cup.” To turn one of these vessel cup singers unrequited from your door is to forfeit all good health and good fortune for the approaching new year.
In Westmoreland and Cumberland early in the morning of New Year’s the “Taex Populi” assemble carrying stangs (long poles) and baskets. Every inhabitant or stranger who falls into the hands of this ruffian band will be sacrificed to their favorite Saint; a man is mounted on a stang, a woman is basketed, and carried shoulder high to the nearest balance and weighed. None are allowed to follow their accustomed occupations on this day.
In Guria in Asiatic Russia, the New Year is prepared for a month before the time comes; the people pen up poultry, turkeys, ducks and geese; but the chief animal for food is the pig which is fatted up a month before and killed two or three days before New Year’s. Continue reading
January starts the year with a plethora of fun, frolicsome festivity. The new year in particular is celebrated by at least 170 nations. In terms of energy, January focuses on beginnings. It’s a time for personal renewal, starting any beloved project, and sustaining those things already in progress.Magic for health, protection, and prosperity is particularly augmented by working during this month. It’s also good time for spell work having to do with beginning and conceiving; protection; reversing spells; conserving energy by working on personal problems that involve no one else; getting your various bodies to work smoothly together for the same goals.
It is said that whatever the weather is like the first twelve days of January indicates what the weather will be like for the next twelve months. Each day equals one month in succession.
January Birth Signs
(Celtic, Nordic, Astrological, etc)
- Dec 22 to Jan19 – Sun in Capricorn
- Dec 22 to Jan 21 – Sign of the Carnation Flower
- Dec 23 to Jan 1 – Sign of the Apple Tree
- Dec 24 – Jan 21 – Sign of the Birch Tree
- Jan 1 to Jan 11 – Sign of the Fir Tree
- Jan 12 to Jan 24 – Sign of the Elm Tree
- Jan 21 and Feb 19 – Sign of the Orchid Flower
- Jan 21 to Feb 19 – Sun in Aquarius
- Jan 21 – Feb 17 – Sign of the Rowan Tree
- Jan 25 to Feb 3 – Sign of the Cypress Tree
January – the month of new beginnings. January was introduced into the Roman calendar by a legendary king of Rome, Numa Pompilius (c. 715 – 673 BCE), who named it in honor of Janus, the god of doors and openings, beginnings and endings.
Since January is reckoned as the first month of a new year, this connection with the god Janus is appropriate. It is an excellent time to work on putting aside the old and outdated in one’s personal life and making plans for new and better conditions.
In Scotland, the last day of the year is called Hogmanay, the word children use to ask for their traditional present of an oatmeal cake (which is why this is also called Cake Day). Traditionally, children in small towns would wander about town, particularly in the more affluent neighborhoods, visiting their neighbors of the better class, crying at their doors, “Hogmanay!” or sometimes the following rhyme:
Gie’s of your white bread
and none of your gray!
In obedience to which call, they are served each with an oaten cake. Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne”
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
Fireworks and fire festivals are still common across Scotland, as are parties and celebrations of all kinds. There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of ‘first-footing’ which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests.
This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see people visiting houses well into January). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year. Traditionally, tall dark men are preferred as the first-foot. And of course, the entire spirit of a Hogmanay party is to welcome both friends and strangers with warm hospitality and of course lots of kissing all-around!
It’s believed that Hogmanay originated with the invading Vikings who celebrated the passing of the winter solstice with much revelry, but the roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic New Year’s celebration of Samhain.
In Rome, winter solstice evolved into the ancient celebration of Saturnalia, a great winter festival, where people celebrated completely free of restraint and inhibition. The Vikings celebrated Yule, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they were sometimes called in Scotland. The winter festival went underground with the Protestant Reformation and ensuing years, but re-emerged near the end of the 17th century
Each area of Scotland often developed its own particular Hogmanay ritual.
An example of a local Hogmanay custom is the fireball swinging that takes place in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire in north-east Scotland. This involves local people making up ‘balls’ of chicken wire filled with old news paper, dried sticks, old cotton rags, and other dry flammable material up to a diameter of 60 cm. Each ball has approximately 1 m of wire, chain or nonflammable rope attached.
As the Old Town House bell sounds to mark the new year, the balls are set alight and the swingers set off up the High Street from the Mercat Cross to the Cannon and back, swinging their burning ball around their head as they go for as many times as they and their fireball last. At the end of the ceremony any fireballs that are still burning are cast into the harbor.
Many people enjoy this display, which is more impressive in the dark than it would be during the day. As a result large crowds flock to the town to see it, with 12,000 attending the 2007/2008 event. In recent years, additional attractions have been added to entertain the crowds as they wait for midnight, such as fire poi, a pipe band, street drumming and a firework display after the last fireball is cast into the sea. The festivities are now streamed live over the Internet.
Another example of a pagan fire festival is the burning the clavie which takes place in the town of Burghead in Moray.In the east coast fishing communities and Dundee, first-footers used to carry a decorated herring while in Falkland in Fife, local men would go in torchlight procession to the top of the Lomond Hills as midnight approached. Bakers in St Andrews would bake special cakes for their Hogmanay celebration (known as ‘Cake Day’) and distribute them to local children.
In Glasgow and the central areas of Scotland, the tradition is to hold Hogmanay parties involving singing, dancing, the eating of steak pie or stew, storytelling and consumption of copious amounts of alcohol, which usually extend into the daylight hours of January 1.
Institutions also had their own traditions. For example, among the Scottish regiments, the officers had to wait on the men at special dinners while at the bells, the Old Year is piped out of barrack gates. The sentry then challenges the new escort outside the gates: ‘Who goes there?’ The answer is ‘The New Year, all’s well.’
An old custom in the Highlands, which has survived to a small extent and seen some degree of revival, is to celebrate Hogmanay with the saining (Scots for ‘protecting, blessing’) of the household and livestock. This is done early on New Year’s morning with copious, choking clouds of smoke from burning juniper branches, and by drinking and then sprinkling ‘magic water’ from ‘a dead and living ford’ around the house (‘a dead and living ford’ refers to a river ford which is routinely crossed by both the living and the dead). After the sprinkling of the water in every room, on the beds and all the inhabitants, the house is sealed up tight and the burning juniper carried through the house and byre.
The smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings until it causes sneezing and coughing among the inhabitants. Then all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year. The woman of the house then administers ‘a restorative’ from the whisky bottle, and the household sits down to their New Year breakfast.
Collected from various sources