Wishing everyone a very Happy and Healthy 2015!
Selling our home in July was a big move for our family. We are still in a small apartment and I just couldn’t get myself into the holiday mood. One thing I learned being in a small apartment is that if you buy anything for your home, it becomes crowded and cluttered very quickly! When your children come home, it also becomes very crowded. But, I’m not complaining. It’s just wonderful to see them healthy and happy.
As space in our home is limited, we had Christmas dinner with friends in their home. We’re also celebrating New Year’s Eve with other friends in their home. We are so blessed to have such good, kind friends in our lives to share the holidays with!
Just because I can’t decorate, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy spending time with loved ones. To keep the holidays cheerful, I just want to share a funny Christmas story about our son, Sean, when he was two years old. This was back in the days when there were no cell phones. Instead we had faxes.
That year, our family was spending Christmas in Maui. One afternoon, we went shopping at the local mall where they had a very small stage with hula dancers and also a booth to take photos with Santa. Who by the way is always in shorts and short sleeves.
That afternoon, my husband was expecting a business call in our hotel room at a designated time. Being on holiday and very relaxed, we didn’t realize the time. When we finally we checked our watches, we were running late and had to rush back to the hotel. With a five and two year old in tow, I held their hands, encouraging them to walk faster telling them Daddy had important business to attend to, so we had to rush. On our way out of the mall, we passed an area that was screened off to the side. Sitting behind the screens were the hula dancers and Santa on break.
As Sean was running by, he spotted the people behind the curtain. Then he completely stopped and kept staring in that direction. Before I knew it, he shouted, “Santa, what are you doing in Maui?” I wanted to laugh out loud, but our boys at that age still believed in Santa. Quickly, I said, “Sean, we have to go!” and he said, “Mom, what is Santa doing in Maui? Why is he in Maui?” He was very confused!
This was a long time ago and I don’t know how I got out of that situation, but it makes me smile when I remember their childhood innocence. There was something very pure about that event. I want to remember to keep that sweetness and purity in our lives no matter how old we are.
Now that Christmas is over, the Japanese prepare for their main celebration of the year, New Years. It’s a time of celebration, spending time with family, enjoying good food, dressing up in kimono, going to the temple and thanking the gods as well as welcoming them in their home. It’s like a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas together.
In Japan, New Years is celebrated on January 1st. There are various forms or traditional decorations that represent different symbols and carry specific meaning. One of them is the kadomatsu.
The kadomatsu, 門松, (the literal character translation is gate-pine) is one of the traditional ornaments that is placed by the front door during New Years. Similar to the Chinese Lions, or Fu dogs as they are known in the West, kadomatsu flank both sides the front door of the residence or building. This ornament was made to honor and receive the ancestral gods to their home in return for a good harvest and protection for the coming year. Today, many restaurants, office buildings and private residences still decorate their homes with the kadomatsu. Even though there is no harvest, it is a customary belief to give thanks to the gods and to ask for overall protection and good fortune in the new year.
Traditionally, kadomatsu includes three pieces of bamboo sliced at a diagonal, pine and plum branches, and straw rope called a shimenawa, and a mat.
The three bamboo slices, set in three different heights respectively represent heaven, man, and earth. Because of bamboo’s fast growth and high strength to weight ratio, it’s a symbol of strength and growth. The matsu or pine, because of its hardiness symbolizes long life and good fortune. They all add up to a long, strong, and prosperous life.
It’s also customary to clean your house, pay your debts, and start the new year with a clean slate. Special food is prepared and families visit one another with the young and old all enjoying time together.
New Years in Japan is really festive and wonderful. But no matter where you are, you too can celebrate the new year. Over the years, I’ve had gatherings and celebrated in many different countries and situations. I’ve realized that it’s okay to make your own family traditions and do what makes you feel good to start the new year. As many of our families and friends are scattered and spread around the world, we’re unable to enjoy being with them in person. I do think about them often and they our always in our hearts.
However you spend the holidays, I wish you much health and happiness for the New Year.
Best wishes for 2015 and thank you so much for reading my blog. I am most grateful for all of you!