Throughout the year there are numerous local festivals, or Matsuri, celebrated. The larger of these attract thousands of spectators.
The main event in Japan is New Year (o-Shogatsu). All shops and businesses are closed between the first and third January. New Year is a celebration when all of the family get together and therefore many families visit their ancestral home. At midnight on 31st december, special noodles are eaten (which promise a long life) and then one goes to the local temple or shrine to pray for prosperity for the new year. On 1st January, a special breakfast is served, children receive money from their parents and family and everyone looks forward to greeting cards arriving in the New Year's morning delivery.
Another very important holiday is O-bon, celebrated around August 15th. O-bon is all about honouring the spirits of ones' ancestors. Houses and tombstones are cleaned and special food is left as an offering to the spirits. Furthermore, throughout the area and around the home lanterns are hung to lead the spirits into the house. There are also large parties thrown with special dances and fireworks.
There are a number of parties in Japan, especially for children. On 3 March, is the puppet festival (Hinamatsuri). May 5th is the day of the children and is primarily a festival for boys. All houses with boys in the family will hang carp streamers (Koinobori). The carp is the symbol of strength and so for every man or boy in the family a pennant is hung.
On 7 July, the festival Tanabata (Star Festival) is celebrated. It's about an old legend about two lovers, symbolized by two stars, separated by the Milky Way, who meet together each year on this evening.
On 15 November, is a festival where girls from 3 to 7 years and boys aged 5 years are taken to a temple to pray for good health.