Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The End of the Year in Japan: Susu-barai (Osoji)

As the year winds down and Christmas lights illuminate the evenings, Japan prepares for the next month's festivities as they welcome the New Year.

Susubarai (today, it is more often called Osoji), a tradition hailing as far back as the Edo period (1603-1868) is held to welcome luck and prosperity into the home. Beloved by children across Japan, this is the day to totally clean up the whole place, to sweep away the old year's luck and welcome the blessings of the gods for the New Year. Suitably, having a clean and impeccable house also makes it less likely to trip and step upon a visiting deity's toes; as even merry Ebisu might only be so patient.

Like many other traditions in Japan, this great cleaning day is one carried over from its history with the cultures and peoples of Asian mainland. As stomachs fill with holiday feasts and year-end drinks, and stockings with more shiny and glittery things, let us celebrate susubarai, and prepare for the coming New Year.

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