Main Annual Festivals

○ Ganjitsu (January 1): the day on which the birth of the new year is celebrated. Nobody works on the three days of the new year, the period called sanga nichi, or shogatsu, Shogatsu originally referred to the whole of January, but now is used just to refer to these three days.

On these days, the people go to shrines, visit friends and relatives, drink sake and eat special new-year dishes, called osechi. Children play (Japanese ) cards, battledore and shuttlecock and kites. Shimenawa, sacred rice-straw ropes, are hung across the top of the gateway, which is also decorated with pine boughs or kadomatsu (gate pines), This pine decoration is left in place from January the fist to the seventh (until the fifteenth in ancient times), the period referred to as natsu no uchi.

○ Hina matsuri (March 3): the Festival of Dolls, Also called Girls’ Festival, this is the day on which wishes are expressed for the future happiness of girls. A set of dolls dressed in costumes which were worn in the royal court in ancient times are displayed together with peach blossoms as decoration. A sweet drink called shirozake, brewed from rice gruel mixed with malted rice, is partaken of on this day.

○ Tango no sekku (May 5): the Boys’ Festival for expressing the hope that each boy in the family will grow up healthy and strong. Warrior figures are set up in the house during this festival, iris leaves are placed under the eaves to fend off evil, and huge fish-like streamers are fastened to poles. Special rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves are eaten on this day.

○ Tanabata (July 7): the Star Festival, which is said to be a combination of Chinese tradition with beliefs peculiar to Japan. This festival celebrates the meeting, just once a year, of two lovers, Kengyu (the star Altair, personified as a cowherd) and Shokujo (Vega, as a weaving girl), who are separated by the Milky Way on the other days of the year. Pieces of bamboo are set up in the garden and adorned with strips of paper of five different colors on which are written poems associated with the legend, and offerings of food, such as corn and eggplant, Also young girls pray that their calligraphy will become as proficient as Vega’s was supposed to be.

○ Obon (around mid-August): the  Festival of Souls. In this festival a variety of foods are offered to the spirits of ancestors, and their repose prayed for. People who have moved to the cities to work return to their home towns during this period. In Tokyo and other major cities this festival is celebrated in July.

○ Tsukimi (nights of the full moon on August 15 and September 13 of the lunar calendar): the days for “moon gazing.” Decorations of Japanese pampas grass are used, and moon-offerings of sake and dango (a kind of dumping) are made as the people gaze at the moon, enjoying the autumn evening.

○ Higan (two periods of seven days with the middle day falling on the spring or autumn equinox): the word higan meaning “the other shore,” or, in Buddhism, nirvana. During higan the spirits of ancestors are recalled, Buddhist rites carried out and family graves visited.

○  Shichi-go-san (November 15):  the seven-five-three festival when parents with boys of five, girls of seven and either boys or girls of three their children in gay clothes and take them to shrines where they pray for their children’s future. These three numbers as odd numbers are considered lucky.

○ Christmas: There are not many baptized Christians in Japan, but many people enjoy the festival atmosphere of Christmas and Christmas Eve. Children, especially, enjoy receiving presents from “Santa Claus.”

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主な年中行事

○元旦(1月1日):新年の門出を祝う日である。元旦から1月3日までの3日間を「お正月」または「3が日」といって完全に仕事を休む。「正月」とは本来 「1月」のことであるが、習慣的にこの3日間を指すようになっている。神社に参詣したり、知人宅を訪問して新年のあいさつを交わし、酒を飲み、正月独特の 料理(おせち料理)を食べたりして楽しむ。子供はカルタ遊びやたこ揚げ、羽根つきなどをする。正月には、門には注連縄を張り、松飾をつけ、または門松を立 てる。松飾のある期間は元旦から7日まで(昔は15日まで)で、この期間を「松の内」とも言う。

○ひなまつり(3月3日):女の子の将来を幸福を願うお祭りである。昔の宮廷の風俗を模したきれいなひな人形を桃の花と一緒に飾る。もちごめの粥に麹を混ぜて醸造した酒(しろざけ)を飲んで楽しむ。

○端午の節句(5月5日):男の子が健やかに育つことを願うお祭りである。武士の人形を飾り、邪気をはらうための勝負を軒に差し、鯉のぼりたて柏餅を食べて楽しむ。

○ 七夕(7月7日):中国伝来の風習とわが国固有の信仰とが結合したものといわれている。天の川(銀河)の両岸にある牽牛星と織女星とが年に1度あうことを 祝うお祭りである。庭前に供物(とうもろこし、なすなど)をし、歌や字を書いた五色の短冊を笹竹につけて飾り、織女星にあやかって女児の手芸の上達を祈 る。

○お盆(8月15日の前後数日):種々の食物を祖先の霊に備えてその冥福を祈る。都会に働きに行っている者は郷里に帰る。なお、東京などの大都市では7月に行なうところもある。

○月見(陰暦8月15夜及び9月13夜《満月の夜》):ススキを飾りお酒とだんごを月に供え、月を見ながら秋の夜を楽しむ。

○お彼岸(春分の日と秋分の日を中心とした前後7日間):彼岸とは河の向こう岸の意味で、仏教ではさとりの世界のことである。先祖の霊を呼び仏事を行い、墓にお詣りする。

○七五三:男の子は3歳と5歳、女の子は3歳と7歳にあたる俊の11月15日に子供の成長を祝い、晴れ着を着せて神社に詣る。奇数をめでたい数をし、そのうちから三つを取ったもの。

○クリスマス:日本には洗礼をうけたクリスチャンの数は多くないが、クリスマスイブにはクリスチャン以外も雰囲気を楽しむ。子供にとってはサンタクロースのプレゼントが楽しみである。

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