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Sunday marked New Year for spirits of ancestors

Date Posted: 2003-02-22

Buddhist tradition denotes the 16th of January on the lunar calendar - Feb. 16 of the western calendar - as the New Year for the spirits of ancestors. And just like the New Year, it’s an occasion for festivities.

Since it is a family festival, many people travel to their ancestral homes to pray and feast in front of their family altars or tombs. Special traditional foods are prepared and then taken to the tomb to be shared with the spirits.

The festival was most visible at Naha Airport, where most inter-island flights were fully booked. There were also extra flights between Naha and Miyako, Kume, Aguni and Ishigaki Islands.

Some people had to travel even further to fill the duty. A man interviewed for local TV news said that since he was the second son of his family, he had to travel to pray to his older brother’s home where the family altar was. “My older brother lives in Kanagawa Prefecture outside Tokyo so I have to travel there to pray my ancestors’ spirits. We already prayed this morning in front of our family grave that is here, and now we go to pray in front of the altar,” the man explained.

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