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definition - Kadomatsu

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Kadomatsu

                   
  Kadomatsu in Kamakura.

A kadomatsu (門松?, literally "gate pine") is a traditional Japanese decoration of the New Year placed in pairs in front of homes to welcome ancestral spirits or kami of the harvest. They are placed after Christmas until January 7 (or January 15 during the Edo period) and are considered temporary housing (shintai) for kami. Designs for kadomatsu vary depending on region but are typically made of pine, bamboo, and sometimes ume tree sprigs which represent longevity, prosperity and steadfastness, respectively. "The fundamental function of the New Year ceremonies is to honor and receive the toshigami (deity), who will then bring a bountiful harvest for farmers and bestow the ancestors' blessing on everyone." After January 15 (or in many instances the 19th) the kadomatsu is burned to appease the kami or toshigami and release them.

  Construction and placement

The central portion of the kadomatsu is formed from three large bamboo shoots, though plastic kadomatsu are available. Similar to several traditions of ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), the shoots are set at different heights and represent heaven, humanity, and earth with heaven being the highest and earth being the lowest. Some kadomatsu place the humanity and earth shoots at the same height. After binding all the elements of the kadomatsu, it is bound with a straw mat and newly woven straw rope. Kadomatsu are placed in pairs on either side of the gate, representing male and female.

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