There are so many rituals, customs, and beliefs that come along with the New Year in every culture. New Years in Japanese culture is one of the most important and celebrated holidays of the year. One custom based in the Shinto tradition is the hanging of the Shimekazari by the entrance of a home. This is said to prevent evil spirits from entering and to invite Toshigami (a Shinto deity) to visit. This New Years piece is made up of Shimenawa, bitter orange, ferns, and Shide. Shimenawa are sacred ropes that can range in size and are generally fashioned out of rice straw or hemp. These ropes denote the sacred, spaces where spirits are said to reside. You can find them placed on certain trees and rocks or even on the belts of top Sumo wrestlers as some believe that they are inhabited by spirits themselves. Shide are clean white paper strips fashioned into a zig-zag shape representing purity in a space and defining the boundary between the sacred and unsacred worlds.
Kagami mochi, or mirror rice cake, is another piece based in the Shinto tradition that can be found in many Japanese homes during the New Year Season. It consists of two round mochi cakes stacked on top of each other, one larger than the other, and a small bitter orange (daidai) to top them off representing the doubling of one's fortune in the new year, longevity, and prosperity for future generations.
These are just a few ways to spiritually connect to the idea of starting fresh in the new year and we hope that we all can find pleasing ways to make our own spaces feel sacred and invite in the best possible energy in 2019!