We’re knee deep in a study of Japan and Ninjas. It’s Firecracker’s new obsession. He wanted to learn about Ninjas, but seeing that there’s not a ton of stuff that is appropriate to learn about Ninjas for elementary school kids, I suggested that we might want to learn a little about Japanese history and customs along the way. (Seriously, he’s so obsessed with Ninjas that he named our puppy Ninja.)
One of the things that we’ve learned about recently is Japanese New Year customs. The Japanese celebrate New Years at the same time that we do. It isn’t as big a deal for them as Chinese New Year is. However, they do have some customs that are very different from American customs for celebrating the New Year. Originally, the Japanese New Year coincided with the Chinese New Year. However, they have been celebrating New Year’s on January first for almost 150 years now.
They don’t eat ham hocks, collard greens and black eyed peas. Instead, they feast on fish cakes, seaweed, and black soybeans.
The Japanese spend the days before the New Year reflecting on the year that has passed. They finish old business. They ask for forgiveness for those from who they need to be forgiven. They tie up loose ends. Then as the old year passes into the new year, the Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times, once for each of the 108 human sins that are enumerated in Buddhism.
One of the fun things that they do for kids is to give them daruma dolls. We, not having any of these dolls nearby decided to make our own.
First be blew up regular round balloons, and we covered them with paper mache strips. After they dried for a few days, we put on two coats of red paint.
We mixed red and white together to make pink because most of the masks are pink or white in the face. However, our pink was so close to our red that you can’t even see a difference on the masks between the two colors. I let the children draw the faces on with sharpies instead of paint.
The darumas are used in Japan to make wishes. When you make a wish, you color in the pupil of one eye. When that wish comes true, you go back to the doll and color in the other pupil. I’m not sure what the kids are wishing, but I do know that we haven’t had a wish come true yet, but it’s only been a week since they made them.