The New Year Day service is called “Shusho-e,” which means a religious gathering to reflect upon and correct our past mistakes and look forward to a better life in the new year. Reflection and resolution are some of the basic elements of an active religious life. This formalized type of thought can be experienced at the New Year Day service with participation by every Buddhist including children.
Buddhists are taught compassion and gratitude. How then are we to interpret and accept holidays that are not Buddhist in origin?
The New Year’s Day Service (Shusho-e in Japanese) is traditionally the first Buddhist service of the year. Although Shusho-e is observed here on the morning of New Year’s Day, in Japan it is usually observed for a period of seven days. The origin of this service goes back to the Nara Period, and its original purpose was to wish for world peace, a successful harvest, and to extend a blessing to the Emperor. Also, it provided an opportunity to reflect upon the past and resolve to live a good life during the coming year.
Attendance at the New Year’s Day Service allows us to share the opportunity to greet old friends and ministers and to start another year together. However, we should not believe that by attending the first service of the new year that we will be blessed with good luck throughout the year; rather, Buddhist services are held to allow us to contemplate on ourselves and to express our gratitude.