On the Threshold of the Year

Display of kadomatsu, or bamboo arrangements, guarantees good luck for Hawaiian households on New Year's Day.


Jill Engledow

kadomatsuAs fireworks explode to chase away evil spirits on New Year’s Eve, many Asian families in Hawai‘i practice much quieter traditions on this holiday that marks a new beginning in life. Rituals leading up to and occurring on January 1 can set the tone for the year to come. The house must be thoroughly cleaned and old debts settled before the big day, but no sweeping is allowed on New Year’s Day, lest the good spirits be swept away for the year. The list of Asian holiday traditions is long, but one of the most decorative is the display of kadomatsu, meaning “pine gate.” Bamboo pieces cut at a slant are arranged with pine sprigs and perhaps other foliage, then bound with new straw rope. The bamboo pieces and the rope’s wrapping should both be in odd numbers, like three, five or seven. The pine symbolizes longevity and endurance, while the bamboo stands for growth and strength. Two kadomatsu are placed outside the front door to welcome the spirit of the new year. This elegant arrangement is displayed for several days before January 1 and removed on January 7. By then, the old year has been firmly dispatched and the new year is well underway; all who have prudently followed the traditions passed down by ancestors for centuries past can expect good fortune in the coming year.


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