A New Year!

Along my journey
through this transitory world,
new year’s housecleaning

– Matsuo Basho

Many sajiki (dictionary of Japan season words) have five seasons, the fifth being “new year” (from The Haiku Seasons by William J Higginson, Kodansha International, 1996). Bill goes on to say that: “In Basho’s day the New Year roughly coincided with the beginning of spring; when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar [in 1873] the two-week-long New Year celebration came to be treated separately.”

Along with many other traditions associated with the new year (special tea, etc), the first dream of the year was/is considered particularly important in Japan, and you can read more about that here.

For us in the West, it’s about looking back and looking forward at the same time, about making resolutions to stand us in good stead for the coming year – and, if you’re Scottish, having a dark-haired man be the first to step through the front door on January 1, carrying a lump of coal, whisky, small cakes and a coin! First-footing, as it’s called, apparently dates back to the days of Viking raids on the east coast of Scotland – a fair-haired man stepping into your home would be very bad luck indeed!

New Year’s Day:
some breaths are long,
some breaths are short.

– Stuart Quine (from The Haiku Seasons)

toasting the new year –
a puriri moth
hits my glass

– Sandra Simpson (Kokako 6, 2007)

My haiku is as the moment happened, I haven’t changed a thing. Puriri moths, native to New Zealand, are large (15cm wingspan) and green; striking, so to speak … and mostly emerge between October and December.  See some photos here.

And read a blog post by poet and outdoorsman Barry L Smith about his encounter with the moths.