2. Displaying Greenery
The Christmas Tree is one of the most recognisable symbols of Christmas and Yule, and again its display is probably rooted in a form of sympathetic magic to promote long life (the traditional pine is evergreen), while decorating it encourages the bare tree to be fruitful again. In the run-up to Shōgatsu, the Japanese display pine as well, combined with bamboo and plum blossoms, in a decoration known as a kadomatsu. The pine represents long life, the bamboo growth, and the blossom good health. Kadomatsu are usually displayed outside homes, businesses and shrines in pairs to represent the divine masculine and feminine. They are considered temporary shintai – a dwelling place for kami, and particularly the toshigami spirits of the New Year. Because of this, kadomatsu must be treated with care, and in January they are ceremonially burned to release the kami.