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Shiwasu (December)

12/12/2006

Another name for December is Shiwasu in Japan.


The origins of the word come in several. One of them is that before the new year days, priests are supposed to intone a sutra at individual houses, so they have to run (shihase) in haste from place to place, from which the word Shiwasu is said to be originated.


Another one is that December is so busy a month that even teachers or masters who are usually quiet, and accordingly do not run, tend to run. Other than these, there are some like the month when the year comes to an endí╩or Toshi hatsuru tsukií╦meaning Toshiga hateru (The year ends.), or the month (when the four seasons end.) or the month when people tie up the loose things in the end of the year and so on.


There are many kinds of events in Shiwasu, the end of the year. Allow me to talk about O-misoka, New Years Eve.


Misoka of O-misoka normally meant the 30th day, but it changed to mean the last day of the month. December 31 seemed to become O-misoka as it was the last Misoka of the year. On O-misoka, New Years Eve, in Japan, people are prepared for events to close one year or New Years Days, a special day to spend a year-crossing day.


Toshikoshi-Soba, buckwheat noodles eaten on New Yeas Eve, are eaten for good luck. It is the custom widespread over in the mid-Edo era. People wish for longevity, rubbing off the thin and long noodles on them to take a fresh lease of life, or to expand fortunes of the family, the theory of which is common.


Ways of eating soba noodles are served in supper, midnight snack, or the like. There is no fixed way of eating. it but they do not fail to eat it within the year end as it is said to be a bad luck omen to eat after crossing the year.


On the night of O-misoka, December 31, is called Joya, a night of removing the last page of day of tearing-off calendar. Between s few minutes before the date changes and the midnight, kane bells at temples ring out 108 times, which is called joya no kane.


108 is the number of human worldly desires. Worldly desires are possessiveness, anger, delusion and agony, as attitude of the heart on the basis of which they make a confession of their yearly crimes listening to joya no kane to have a clean heart, removing earthly desires. Then they celebrate the coming of the New year.

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