Tuesday, February 08, 2005

February 8th is "Festival of Broken Needles" in Japan

In Japan, February 8th of each year marks a traditional holiday named Harikuyou, literally "needle worship" but often translated as the "Festival of Broken Needles." This intriguingly named holiday dates back to the days when seamstresses and others in the sewing trade treated each and every needle they owned with great respect. If a needle broke or wore out, the seamstress or tailor wouldn't just toss it in the trash. Instead, they would set them aside until February 8th, when they would take these old needles to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. There, they would make offerings to express thanks for all the work they were able to do with the needles--in short, it was like a retirement party for old needles. Harikuyou was also a time to pray for improved sewing skills and fewer broken needles in the coming year.

Such a festival may seem quaint today, but it is a product of a time before modern material comfort, when even individual sewing needles were relatively expensive and so were treated with care and respect.

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