Everybody is quite familiar with Christmas wreaths that are displayed on the front door and walls over a fireplace etc. There are so many types of Christmas wreaths in terms of shape, materials and design as well. People who like flowers and love floral arranging never feel bored during Christmas season because there are tons of Christmas wreaths displayed everywhere not only at home but also in the town, shopping center and restaurant as well as corporate office.
Sometimes we find vehicles displaying a Christmas wreath mounted on the front side of a car. In short, no matter where you go, you always find Christmas wreaths during this season. Christmas wreath or holiday wreath remind me of another type of wreath which is quite popular in Japan. This is called “Shimenawa Wreath” or “Shimekazari” that is a very traditional ornament displayed during New Year holidays although they are not so well known outside of Japan.
The main material of Shimenawa wreath is ropes made of rice straws or hemps and it is decorated with evergreen plant such as pine needles or ferns etc. Unlike Christmas wreaths, not so many people make it themselves. They prefer to buy it at the market rather than making themselves because it is a little bit difficult to make it. Most Shimenawa wreaths in Japan are hand-made by professionals. Towards the end of the year, there appears a market selling these wreaths.
Decorating front doors with shimenawa wreaths (or shimekazari) originated in Japanese traditional religion that is Shinto. Meanwhile Shimanawa means a rope itself (not in the shape of wreath) made of rice straws or hemps. Since Shimenawa and Shimenawa wreaths have deep relationship with Shinto, you can always find Shimenawa at shito shrine regardless of the season.
Although the traditional daily customs of Shinto is getting deteriorated in their daily life, they try to maintain it and remember it on very important day such as New Year Holiday. If you visit Japan during New Year Holidays, you will find front doors of many homes and office buildings are decorated with Shimenawa wreaths. (Also in front of many homes and office buildings, they display another type of decoration called “Kadomatsu” made of thick bamboo tubes and pine trees).
The biggest difference between American Christmas wreath and Japanese Shimenawa wreath is that Christmas wreaths are displayed in December and Japanese Shimenawa wreaths are decorated in New Year’s holidays.
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