Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dondo-yaki どんどやき

Yesterday I attended a Dondo-yaki, which is basically a special bonfire held as part of the Oshogatsu celebration. According to tradition, a Kami named Toshitokujin, the goddess with responsibility for auspicious directions and happenings for the coming year (and when appeased, insures prosperity and an abundant harvest) visits during Oshogatsu, and brings with her Shōgatsu-sama, an “Honorable New year”.

One of the primary traditions linked to Dondo-yaki is the burning of New Year’s decorations such as kadomatsu and shimenawa, and objects such as Omomori, and Kakizome. The town or village gathers at some central place and burns all these sacred symbols for the greeting of the New Year, and by burning them it is believed that they are sent off to the Kami as gifts.

I intoduced Kadomatsu and shimenawa in yesterdays post, Omamori お守り are charms dedicated to particular Shintō and Buddhist deities. Kakizome 書き初 or “first writing,” is a term for the first calligraphy (Shodō) written at the beginning of a year. As the burning paper and ash flies high, it is believed that the person who created the calligraphy will be able to rise above their limitations and write even better in the coming year. I did my kakizome last wednesday so I hope my Shodō improves this year - I certainly smelled of smoke all day.

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