Hari-Kuyo ~ Festival of Broken Needles

hari-kuyoHari-Kuyo, Festival of Broken Needles, is a remembrance ceremony that takes place every February 8 in Shinto and Buddhist temples all across Japan. This traditional Japanese festival is a tribute to the old and broken needles that served their users well. It’s also an opportunity to pray for new and better sewing skills in the coming year.

Hari (needle)-Kuyo (memorial service) has been celebrated for hundreds of years. As beliefs shape culture, the Japanese hold high esteem for objects in their daily life. It is believed that if objects and utensils are used roughly and without respect, they will come back as monsters (tsukumogami) to haunt the people who were wasteful or threw things away thoughtlessly. Rituals, like Hari-Kuyo, are observed to honor and put to rest these objects to prevent tsukumogami from occurring.
Shinto is the indigenous spirituality of Japan. My sons’ great-grandparents on their father’s side came from Japan. Granny, as I called her, kept a Shinto shrine on a dresser in one of the bedrooms, much to Grandpa’s dismay. He was proud of his conversion to Christianity and would talk to anyone about the Christian Kami (spirit) he worshipped. Granny, on the other hand, felt there was quiet room for those traditions that were an integral part of who she was and where she came from. 
Sewing and fine needlework were once considered valuable and essential skills for Japanese women. Her needles and pins were part of her soul. As they broke and wore out, she carefully placed them aside until Hari-Kuyo. Dressed in her finest kimono, she would present her needles and pins at the temple. The needles and pins are put in tofu. The soft, silky texture of tofu soothes the broken edges of the needles and pins, allowing them to rest and be comforted for all the fine work they provided. These faithful needles and pins are blessed to reflect their passage from work well done to rest. No sewing is done on this day.
I haven’t done any needlework at all this year. In fact, I completely forgot about Hari-Kuyo. I was reminded that it was coming up when I opened a package of counted cross-stitch charts I ordered from Tulsa, Oklahoma. There, among the Christmas stocking charts I purchased, was a flyer about it. I’m stitching Christmas stockings for each granddaughter this year. I am also finishing up the Lord’s Prayer project I started in 2012. No doubt I will have a few well used and broken needles. They will be lovingly put aside for next year’s Hari-Kuyo and my own private Festival of Broken Needles.

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