門松（かどまつ） - Traditional Ornaments to Welcome The New Year !
In Japan, as soon as Christmas Day is over, Christmas trees are quickly replaced with 門松 kadomatsu ( Picture on the right). Kadomatsu is a seasonal ornament to welcome gods to our homes and businesses and can be seen only around this season of the year. Usually a set of kadomatsu are placed outside on both sides of the entrance gate so that the gods can find our places. The size of Kadomatsu varies. Large ones are over 6 feet tall. Traditionally, the arrangement has three sets of bamboo, pine needles, plum branches, and nandina berries. Each material used is considered to bring luck and prosperity.
If you imagine the cut surface of the bamboo as a face, do you see the bamboo has a big smile? The Japanese proverb 笑う門には福来る ( warau kado
ni wa fuku kitaru ) is related to kadomatsu. The proverb means “good fortune and happiness will come to the homes of those who smile”. Kado means the gate, Matsu is the pine tree. Pine tree and bamboo and plum tree are good luck in Japan. For most Japanese, Christmas doesn’t have religious meaning so it is just fun gathering with friends or family or going out on a romantic date. But the New Year is different. I feel fresh, serious, and solemn in the chilly and crisp air at the end of December when Kadomatsu appears. The party is over; now is the time to be sober, clear and clean of every mess. Japanese clean their houses, cars, and offices by December 31 because the gods will not come to messy places. Then it is time to welcome the New Year and new gods.