Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

artist unknown "New Year's Calligraphy"  ca. 1880  private collection

This woodblock print from the japanese meiji period is entitled "New Year's Calligraphy". Kakizome is a traditional practice of writing out auspicious words and phrases in one's best calligraphy as part of the new Year celebrations. These wishes/prayers are then ceremonially burned.  However, such calligraphic efforts do not usually include painted imagery as we see here. I wonder if this print has been mis-titled, and instead of Kakizome, it illustrates the popular Japanese New Year's tradition of Nengajo, making and sending New Year's greeting cards to all one's friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. While these greetings can now be bought ready-made, people used to make them by hand, with ink drawings and paintings, as well as calligraphy. Making the greeting cards was one of the many tasks leading up to Oshagatsu, the New Year's Holidays, celebrated from about December 30 thru about January 3.  The concept of Nengajo is similar to that of the western christmas card tradition but the Japanese send these cards in greater quantity. It is said that every year from 3 to 4 billion nengajo are delivered in Japan.

We can see this lady is painting an image of Mount Fuji. This may be related to the belief in Hatsuyume, the first dream of the New Year. It is believed that the best first dream of the New Year one can have is to dream of first, Mount Fuji, second, a hawk, and third, an eggplant. If you dream of one of these auspices you are assured that the year to come will be happy and prosperous for you.

Dear Women in the Act of Painting readers, even if you have not yet had a dream of Mount Fuji, a hawk, or an eggplant, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!



Maxine Sperling said...

I love that you are doing this. It gets better and better. And I so much enjoy seeing the additions to it.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Thank you Maxine! I appreciate the encouraging words. I am so glad you are enjoying the project. Happy New Year!