Japanese New Year (part 1)
Until the distant now, 1873, Japan lived according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The favorite winter holiday of all children and adults was “moving” – each time it was a new day somewhere in late January or in the first half of February. However, the winds of change blew: under pressure from European powers and America, the country finally opened ports for free trade with foreigners. It became obvious that the difference in the time scales causes glaring inconvenience. And then the government voluntarily transferred the country to the solar calculation of days and months. At the same time, it was lost as much as thirty days: after the eleventh the first “moon” of the next year immediately arrived. The officials automatically lost their monthly salary – some were noisy, demanding to be issued nevertheless, but to no avail. Almost a century and a half has passed since then, and the Japanese have long been accustomed to celebrate the New Year at the same time as we, on January 1.
Of course, fanatics of traditions still express dissatisfaction with this and stubbornly celebrate their “real” holiday on the night of the end of the twelfth moon. They are in the absolute minority, however, in principle, the inhabitants of the Land of the Rising Sun would not be themselves if they completely forgot how their ancestors acted in one way or another. In the Japanese “performance”, the 21st century New Year celebrations to the smallest detail – like historical “reconstruction” – are similar to the festivities of the 19th century and at the same time they get along peacefully with grandiose Christmas sales of a completely globalist type. Interesting articles Yes, along with the Gregorian account of time, Christian Christmas penetrated the Japanese islands, but it has lost its religious component, and is now used primarily to better prepare for the beloved New Year (is not it, this is also the case with us?). In addition, in December traditionally paid bonuses for the whole year, which immediately fly into the furnace of the festive industry. Restaurants and other food venues are crammed with companies, usually co-workers gathered at a corporate party. Everything seems to be normal, European, but do you know what such an event is officially called? “A meeting on the oblivion of last year.” Only having forgotten this year, according to local ideas, can a solemn act of transition to a new one be realized. Act – not loudly said. Here, the great winter holiday with all its symbols and signs is really perceived as a life-affirming and life-giving, “mythological” event in essence. By the way, about paraphernalia – like the Europeans, the Japanese give the main role here to an evergreen plant. Just did not eat, but exclusively pine. In the ancient national system of “symbolic meanings”, it personifies eternal youth and longevity. No wonder the dew of the holy hermits certainly included dew literally licked from pine needles – in this way the bodies are filled with the “physical” power of a secular nature. Unlike hermits, ordinary peasants on New Year’s Eve went to the mountains, which are rich in all four major Japanese islands, to dig up or cut down a young pine. Then she was supposed to be put right in front of the gates of her house so that luck would come there. Actually, in modern language, the New Year tree-decoration is called “Kadomatsu”, that is, “pine in front of the gate”.
The reputation of the pine tree in the popular mind is strong and inviolable; it is included in the subcortex along with ancient poetry. The latter often glorifies this plant along with the crane, another well-known symbol of longevity and good luck. It was believed that it was on the cranes that the immortal Taoist saints travel. Back in the 10th century, a certain lady of the street wrote:
With a thousand-year-old pine
What congratulations bring you
They know how they would like to live forever in the shadow of your graces!
(Translation by A.A. Dolina)
She is repeated two centuries later by the famous Saigyo:
At every gate
Young pines are standing.
Indiscriminately at home
Spring has come today!
(Translation by V.N. Markova)
Interesting articles Notice – spring has come, not winter, which is natural – after all, the Japanese used to associate the date change holiday with the “opening” of the agricultural season and the cold weather just as they are now “forced” to associate it with their beginning. But – here I have to repeat – the appropriate ritual turned out to be completely indestructible in Japanese, “oriented” just to rebirth, awakening from sleep, a surge of energy.
It was believed, for example, that the deity of the coming year descends from the mountains to the top of the foregone pine tree and breathes in the earth the power of fertility. And so that the hardworking creature does not get tired, he was prepared with a hearty treat: round mochi rice cakes, rice wine (known to all sake), persimmons, tangerines, dried and salted fish. It is still customary to regale for the New Year with cod caviar: eating embryos should also provide people with fertility in every sense of the word. However, of course, in today’s city life, it is usually just a matter of career successes and matters that are not related to tillage.