Wikipedia says this about Hatsumode:
Hatsumōde (初詣 hatsumōde) is the first shrine visit of the New Year in Japan. Some people visit a Buddhist temple instead. Many visit on the first, second, or third day of the year as most are off work on those days. Generally, wishes for the new year are made, newo-mamori (charms or amulets) are bought, and the old ones are returned to the shrine so they can be burned. There are often long lines at major shrines throughout Japan.
Most Japanese are off work from December 29 until January 3. It is during this time that the house is cleaned, debts are paid, friends and family are visited and gifts are exchanged. It would be customary to spend the early morning of New Year's Day in domestic worship, followed by sake—often containing edible gold flakes—and special celebration food. During the hatsumōde, it is common for men to wear a full kimono—one of the rare chances to see them doing so across a year. The act of worship is generally quite brief and individual and may involve queuing at popular shrines. The o-mamori vary substantially in price.
Well, today wasn't exactly my first day to visit the shrine. Actually I went yesterday but I went too late and couldn't pick up my good luck fortune for the next year, my Omikuji, as the shop at the shrine was closed.
So, I went today. I have to have my Omikuji as I need confirmation that this year is going to be the best year so far in my life....
Wikipedia says this about Omikuji:
Omikuji (御御籤, 御神籤, or おみくじ) are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. Literally "sacred lottery", these are usually received by making a small offering (generally a five-yen coin as it is considered good luck) and randomly choosing one from a box, hoping for the resulting fortune to be good. (Nowadays, these are sometimes coin-slot machines.)
The omikuji is scrolled up or folded, and unrolling the piece of paper reveals the fortune written on it. It includes a general blessing which can be any one of the following:
- Great blessing (dai-kichi, 大吉)
- Middle blessing (chū-kichi, 中吉)
- Small blessing (shō-kichi, 小吉)
- Blessing (kichi, 吉)
- Half-blessing (han-kichi, 半吉)
- Near-blessing (sue-kichi, 末吉)
- Near-small-blessing (sue-shō-kichi, 末小吉)
- Curse (kyō, 凶)
- Small curse (shō-kyō, 小凶)
- Half-curse (han-kyō, 半凶)
- Near-curse (sue-kyō, 末凶)
- Great curse (dai-kyō, 大凶)
A common custom during hatsumōde is to buy a written oracle called omikuji. If your omikuji predicts bad luck you can tie it onto a tree on the shrine grounds, in the hope that its prediction will not come true. The omikuji goes into detail, and tells you how you will do in various areas in your life, such and business and love, for that year. Often a good-luck charm comes with the omikuji when you buy it, that will summon good luck and money your way.
Of course, as I just knew I would, I got the Great Blessing Omikuji. This means that this year will be very lucky for me - this, also, as I knew would happen.
Dai-Kichi, the Omikuji for Great Blessing....
Perhaps you can't go to a shrine or temple this year, so, just print out the Omikuji above and fold it up and keep it in your wallet or purse this year. It is sure to bring the bearer good luck!
Good Luck to you in 2011!