Customs for December


We refer to December as “Shiwasu”.

In Japan, we usually ‘tie up loose ends’ in the old year to have a more refreshing New Year. We visit people who take care of us, clean house, write Nengajo, and prepare for Shogatsu (New Year). We have so many things to do. We used to invite monks (師) to our homes, making December a very busy month for them. This is why December is called Shiwasu, which literally means, “the monk is running”.

Cleaning dust

Sun, 31 December: Cleaning and Dusting

We clean and dust our homes. Many people clean their house at the end of the week during their time off. ”Grand house cleaning”. In the past, the grand cleaning day for the Edo Castle was designated as December 13th, so people started cleaning their house on the same day.
At temples and shrines in Japan, you can see them cleaning dust using a big duster and wiper.


Tues, 22 December: Winter solstice

Toji, or winter solstice, is the shortest day in the year. The days begin to get longer on the day after and it was believed that the sun is reborn on the day of Toji. People eat nutritious pumpkin, or take baths using the peelings from the Yuzu lemon on the day of Toji, which both are thought to bring good fortune.


Thurs, 31 December: Omisoka

We call the end of the month Misoka, and the last day of the year is called Omisoka, or “grand misoka”. Up until this day, we prepare to welcome the “Toshigamisama” who comes in the new year, and will usually wait up all night for them.
We eat Toshikoshi soba noodle to drive away evil and listen to the bell, Joya-no-kane.

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