Junbi ga ii
What do people who celebrate Christmas with a live tree do with the tree? Do they chop it up and leave it out for the trash? Use it for firewood?
In Japan, there is a designated method of disposal for New Year decorations. They are burnt in a traditional bonfire. The ceremony is called "dondoyaki" or "dondonyaki" in Pumpkin Prefecture (other names in other areas include but are not limited to "tondoyaki" "dontoyaki" and "sagicho" but they all involve burning New Year decorations) and it usually takes place on January 15th or thereabouts (adjusted these days so that it falls on a weekend and everyone can take part).
The week before, local kids will come knocking at your door to collect your New Year decorations and two-eyed daruma dolls. Their loot will be placed in a great tower, with straw mats and firewood added for form and flammability.
Our local dondoyaki took place in the park the Pumpkin Prince and Princess frequent. The fire department stands by, just in case.
This is my neighbor. She came prepared with dried squid skewered on twigs. When the bonfire settles, she'll roast the squid to eat. Others came with mochi (rice cakes) on sticks, and sweet potatoes in tin foil.
Here they are, getting ready to light the fire. Not all the darumas have actually earned their second eye. Many (o.k., nearly all) were bought and given two eyes just for today.
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn....
It only took a minute or so for the blaze to reach full force. To be honest, until this moment, I thought the Fire Department was kind of overkill. Now, I am glad they were there.
After the blaze settled down, everyone who came prepared roasted their squid and mochi. Eating food cooked by the dondoyaki flames is supposed to bless the person with good health throughout the year.