Resolutions already broken? Don’t the let the New Year’s festivities fizzle; come celebrate Oshogatsu and the Year of the Snake at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens on Sunday, January 13. Japan’s traditional New Year’s bash, Oshogatsu is celebrated throughout January, bringing family and friends together to participate in traditional ceremonies, performances and dining.
Year of the what now? The Japanese New Year is celebrated in accordance with the Japanese zodiac, represented by 12 animals in a 12-year cycle. As the story goes, Buddha invited all the animals of this world to join him in his kingdom, but only 12 came. To show appreciation, he named a year after each one of them, thus creating the 12-year cycle. The Year of the Snake is said to be a harbinger of good luck, while people born under the snake zodiac are said to be profound thinkers and wisdom seekers.
This year's Oshogatsu festival, the Morikami's thirty-sixth, will feature some new activities to mark the New Year. Incorporating some of Japan’s most important New Year rituals, visitors can take part in mochitsuki, the pounding of rice to make mochi, large Japanese cakes. This traditional activity, always a crowd pleaser, requires at least two people to take turns pounding the cooked rice with a large wooden mallet, flipping the rice mound between strikes.
Another favorite custom is shishimai, the lion dance, accompanied by taiko drumming by Fusho Daiko. At the end of the dance, the lion "bites" the heads of a few watchers to bring luck. The museum also is hosting tea ceremony demonstrations, which encourage participants to learn and practice serenity, peace and meditation. Musical performances by Friends of Koto will take to the Daruma stage, while the fan favorite omikuji, Japanese fortune-telling ($1), will predict good fortune for the year to come. For visitors with perfect penmanship, kakizome, the first calligraphy of the New Year expressing New Year greetings and poems, will have audience members rapt.
New this year, the Morikami has set up a DIY Daruma Wall for visitors to write their wishes and color in one eye of their personal daruma. The following year, they can return to color in the second eye once the wish comes true. And for those interested in the origin, history and contemporary celebration of Oshogatsu, the Morikmai education staff will lead an introductory lecture.
The celebrations include a variety of kid games: Go, Hanetsuki, which is similar to badminton; Daruma Otoshi, a Jenga-like game with a hammer; and Fukuwarai, similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey, in which players arrange the features of a blank face. There will also be a kid-friendly New Year’s storytime about the origin of the Japanese zodiac and the 12 animals represented.
For eats and drinks, the Kirin Beer Garden and Sake Station will have all the adult beverages one can handle. The Cornell Café will offer an abridged a la carte menu for festivalgoers, while food vendors will be on hand to fill any epicurean void with Pan-Asian and American fare.
- Festivities begin Sunday, January 13, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for children 4-10. Admission is free for museum members and children 3 and younger.
- For more information, call 561-495-0233 or visit morikami.org.
4000 Morikami Park Road
Delray Beach, FL 33446
Photography courtesy of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens