Happy New Year!

My flower lady put together an arrangement for my genkan (entrance hall) of pine branches and nandina berries (above).

Some Japanese New Year decorations include:

Shimenawa, the straw rope that designates a sanctuary or sacred space, or acts as a barrier against “defilement.” A shimenawa is often combined with shochikubai elements into beautiful decorative wreaths.

Toshidana, a shelf on which rice cakes (and sometimes rice, water, sake, persimmons, or kelp) are placed. The supermarket and my local confectioner has many kagami mochi (rice cake stacks) on offer.

Kadomatsu, the decoration of pine branches and bamboo put up at entrances to houses. The New Year god (Shogatsu-sama) is believed to descend on houses from the heavens, coming down through the trees. Therefore, a kadomatsu welcomes the god and serves as a temporary home.

Pollocksthebollocks has an introduction to Japanese New Year traditions with related ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

There are discussions of osechi ryōri (Japanese New Year’s Day food traditions) at A Taste of Culture, Tokyo Food Page, and in The New York Times (12/26/07).

After the stroke of midnight, and in the days to follow as the Japanese greet people they know for the first time in 2008, they will say:

Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu (congratulations on the bright opening).

Kyonen wa iroiro to osewa ni narimashita (I was in your debt last year).

Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu (I hope you will be kind to me in the coming year.)

I will say these words to my Japanese teacher when next I see her. But I say it here to you, friends and family—and the readers who have stumbled upon this site—for taking the time to read and for being in our life. Thank you!