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Kakizome: The First Writing of the Year

The Arts Mid-Hudson Folk Arts Program and the Mid-Hudson Japanese Community Association present Kakizome, a Japanese cultural program celebrating the traditional first calligraphy writing of the New Year, on Saturday, January 6, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m, at Arts Mid-Hudson, 696 Dutchess Turnpike (Rt. 44), Poughkeepsie.

Many cultures and countries have celebratory traditions and rituals marking the transition into the New Year. In addition to parties with noise makers and festive foods, in the United States, for example, many people make personal resolutions for self-improvement. Japanese culture has several New Year’s rituals, among them osechi, special foods to be served on New Year’s day, and kakizome, the ritualized first calligraphy writing of the year.

Kakizome, which translates to “first writing,” takes place within the first few days of each new year. Traditionally people would use calligraphy to write poems that expressed their hopes and aspirations for the coming year. The poems were later burned, as if to seal the fate of the hope, a practice reminiscent of blowing out candles on a birthday cake after making a wish.

The kakizome tradition continues, but these days practitioners write auspicious kanji (Chinese characters) rather than poems. Each guest chooses an idea or sentiment to carry with them into the New Year. For example, if you hope for good health in the New Year, you would write a kanji for positive health; if you desire more patience, you would practice the kanji for tolerance or acceptance. Kakizome is about positive wishes for the New Year. It is a reflective practice based on the belief that practicing one kanji over and over helps the writer focus on the hoped-for theme.

Volunteers from the local Japanese community will be on hand, offering guidance for deciding on and writing your chosen kanji. Brushes, paper, and ink will be provided. This popular program is free and open to the public, and is a welcome contrast to December’s hustle and bustle. Visitors are welcome to come and go any time between 2 and 4 p.m.

The Mid-Hudson Japanese Community Association (MHJCA) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to introduce Japanese culture to the local community, to foster a sense of community among Japanese residents, and to be a bridge for cultural exchanges between Japanese and non-Japanese residents of the Hudson Valley. MHJCA educational presentations and language classes are aimed towards children and adults in the Hudson Valley area. The Association frequently collaborates with Arts Mid-Hudson to present interactive programs celebrating Japanese culture.

Arts Mid-Hudson’s Folk Arts Program researches and presents the arts and traditions that form our diverse communities’ cultural heritages. Through educational public programs such as the musical round-robin, the program interprets the traditions of ethnic, occupational and religious groups in the Mid-Hudson region. The Folk Arts Program welcomes suggestions about how to assist in celebrating your community’s heritage.

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