During the New Year in Japan, you’ll notice that a large number of people purchased ornaments for their homes. However, now that the New Year celebrations are over, you may be wondering what the Japanese will be doing with all the beautiful ornaments that were used?
Kadomatsu, Shimekazari and Kagami mochi are the most commonly used decorations for celebrating Japanese New Year. Also, these are usually not stored for reuse the following year either, as each year they are used to invite the Gods in to celebrate the year that is approaching, so reusing them may be considered disrespectful. So rather than throwing them away, the Japanese have a much better use for them in a customary tradition called, Dondo Yaki!
Dondo Yaki is a traditional yearly event where the Japanese dispose of their New Year’s ornaments by burning them. This tradition is held in the middle of January, or the Koshougatsu period, which is around the 14th and 15th January this year. The date and locations differ from region to region with some being held on the 18th January also. However, you’ll find this custom usually taking place in shrines, parks, fields or even riversides.
Aside from the used New Year’s ornaments, mikans, mochi and Japanese dumplings (dango) are also roasted on a stick over the Dondo Yaki bonfire. Traditionally this is related to the Kagami Mochi decoration which originally symbolised longevity. There are also common beliefs that by eating these items after being roasted over the Dondo Yaki fire will bring good health for the entire year.
Throwing away items that signify good luck like charms (omamori), Dharma dolls (daruma) and other items are considered bad luck. However, they can be burned alongside the New Year’s decorations in the Dondo Yaki. Lastly, as always, there are precautions for burning items to ensure safety, so ensure all plastic and wires attached to any ornaments or items are removed first before putting in the Dondo Yaki fire.
The Dondo Yaki is another great annual tradition that has been uniquely passed down for centuries. It is also a custom that is very much a part of New Year’s tradition and is attended by many people all over Japan so keep an eye out for one near you between the 14th and 18th January!