Household Festivals

Shinto festivals are usually celebrated at shrines. For those who do not live near a shrine, here is my adapted festival calendar. The dates for these festivals may vary due to astronomical or calendrical reasons.

New Year's Day (Oshogatsu):

On New Year's Day, eat and make lucky foods known as Osechi. Some recipes are listed here. Many Japanese people go to a shrine or temple for the first time in the new year, a practice called hatsumode. Instead of this, worshipers abroad could try offering sake at the kamidana.


Setsubun marks the beginning of spring. This is celebrated on either February 3 or 4. The date for Setsubun moves one day every 20 years. On this day, children throw roasted soybeans out the door or at an adult wearing an oni mask and chant "(鬼は外! 福は内!" (Oni go outside, luck come inside!). You can also eat roasted soybeans equivalent in number to your age.


Hinamatsuri is held on March 3 at home by families who often are gifted hina dolls. These are carefully laid out, with votive miniature mochi in front of them. Special lanterns are laid out on both sides. Sometimes there are many dolls to play music and entertain the main couple. The purpose of this holiday is to pray for a good marriage for your daughter. Of course, this is quite heteronormative, but I wanted to include this just in case.

Haru Higan

Haru Higan is usually celebrated around March 20 for seven days. On this day, those with Japanese ancestry can worship their ancestors. Everyone can appreciate the coming warmth of spring as well.


Tanabata is usually celebrated on July 7, though some celebrate it on August 7. This commemorates the day that two literally star-crossed lovers, an oxherd and a weaver, can meet by crossing the Milky Way. If it rains, it is said that the weather prevents them from meeting until the next year. If it is clear, they are able to be reunited. You can write wishes on pieces of paper and hang them on bamboo stalks.


Bon, also known as Obon, is a major summer holiday held in honor of ancestors on July 15 or August 15 depending on the family. This one is often more Buddhist-flavored. You can make a small fire (real or symbolic -- and please be mindful of fire safety) as a landmark for your ancestors to find your home. Traditionally, specific altars just for the ancestors who return during Obon are constructed. A common practice is to construct horses and cows out of cucumbers and eggplants, respectively. The method for this is simple -- simply stick toothpicks in for their legs! It is said that this is to make ancestors come faster and leave slower. Bon Odori (Bon Dances) are held where slow traditional songs are played, and locals dance in a circle around a high platform with a drummer on it. This is a time of much fun and games. Fires are also lit at the ancestors' departure.


Tsukimi is the moon-watching festival held on the eighth month of the lunar calendar on the 15th day. Traditions for this festival include making tsukimi dango (recipe here) and offering them on a sanbo tray by a window. You can also offer seasonal fruits and vegetables, and sprigs of susuki, or pampas grass.

Aki Higan

Aki Higan is the fall festival on September 22 or 23 marking the beginning of fall and cooler seasons in Japan. This is another day for worshiping one's ancestors.

Preparing for the New Year

At the end of the year, get mochi, shimekazari and any other items you need in preparation for the New Year. You may also wish to clean your home at this time. *I may update this list later!

2024/03/15 up

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