Cultural tradition helps scholarship fund

LIHU’E — People wishing to celebrate New Year’s in the traditional Japanese style can start picking up their kadomatsu starting today, Monday, Dec. 19.

That is the word from HGEA (Hawaii Government Employees Association) officials who were busy Saturday creating the bamboo pieces that symbolize good luck and longevity in the Japanese culture.

Patrick Watase, one of the crew members who harvested the bamboo, one of the principal ingredients in the arrangement, said they started on Wednesday afternoon, and harvested enough to create at least 300 arrangements.

Friday evening was set aside as the time to start cutting the bamboo in preparation for the assembly process Saturday.

Normally, the kadomatsu, like the traditional mochi, is done the weekend following Christmas, but because Christmas falls on Sunday this year, and New Year’s also falls on Sunday, the HGEA volunteers decided to start early so the fund-raiser wouldn’t conflict with family plans over the holidays.

According to an explanatory placard that accompanies each kadomatsu, the arrangement translates to mean “gate pine,” because the kadomatsu can be placed either indoors or outdoors, near the entrance to homes, at New Year’s.

On the outside of homes, it is not uncommon to see sprigs of bamboo and pine (in Hawai’i, many have substituted ironwood sprigs) taped to both sides of doorways in an informal kadomatsu arrangement.

These arrangements are also sold at supermarkets offering Japanese foodstuffs.

The kadomatsu consists of bamboo stems and two pine-tree branches. A plum-tree branch is added to make a combination of three lucky symbols.

The pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms symbolize longevity, gentleness, and fidelity, respectively.

Kadomatsu are believed by many to serve as a dwelling place for the god that brings good luck at the beginning of the year, and are displayed until Saturday, Jan. 7, after which the kadomatsu are disposed of by burning.

Gerald Ako of the HGEA office said that proceeds from the sale of kadomatsu (and they almost always sell out fast), go to benefit the Kendall Scholarship Fund.

He added that this is the only major fund-raiser HGEA leaders hold to benefit the scholarship fund.

Ako said people interested in getting their kadomatsu can do so starting today, Monday, Dec. 19, at the HGEA office on ‘Akahi Street in Lihu’e.

Once they’re gone, there will be no more for this year.

For more information, people may call the HGEA office at 245-6751.

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