During the year, there are many festival celebrations in Shinto. The New Year’s festival is one such celebration and involves a ritual purification of the homestead and prayers for a good year. About one month to the New Year, people conventionally put up an entrance pine or kadomatsu at their home. Kadomatsu consists of pine branches and standing bamboo, and acts as a welcome point for the Kami.
This is intended to invoke the blessings and goodwill of the Kami. Susuharai is also another New Year preparation which involves a ceremonial house cleaning. After this, traditional cold dishes known as motchitsuki and osechi-ryori are prepared. These dishes are made cold so as to ensure that housewives do not have too much work cooking for the first 3 days of the year. The old year is closed by eating the final plate of noodles known as tosho-koshi-soba.
At times, people visit local shrines immediately after midnight while others choose to wait for daytime. In front of the Kamidana, families clap their hands and give offerings to the Kami. The Kamidana is a shelf whereby a miniature shrine is put. People also look as the sun rises in the New Year. This is called hatsu-hi-node. Others simply visit the shrine during the first few days of the year. This is usually known as hatsu-mode. Also people can exchange nenga or visits among relatives and friends. Sending cards to one another is known as nengajo.
Children are not left out in the New Year festivities. They receive money in what is known as otoshidama while other people can participate in various activities that are special to the occasion. Such activities include men playing cards and rolling dice, and ladies playing some form of badminton in kimono. In Shinto, these New Year rituals make the New Year colorful, busy and exciting.
Williams, R.G. & Boyd, J.W. (1999) Shinto Purification Rituals. Retrieved on 16 June 2014 from http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Reln275/Shinto-purification- rituals.htm