New Year’s at Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America

Last year, I spent three days at Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America volunteering for the New Year event.  I haven’t posted yet, which is silly, because Saturday I’m heading up there to do it again, except for longer.  I wrote pages and pages about it, but it’s too much, so I’ll try and keep it short here.  I bet I fail.

I was able to make time to go up to the shrine and volunteer.  There were a number of volunteers, and I have lost most of their names.  This is a bummer, because they were all fascinating and interesting people.  I remember Joe, who I parked cars with all day on the 1st.  I remember Steve, who flew up from California and has been at New Year’s for twenty years, and his son Chris, who arrived straight from work in a suit and tie.  I remember Peter, who is thrilled to stand at the top of the road to the shrine and wish people a happy new year ALL DAY LONG.  There were a dozen or more, and they were all great folks, but my capacity for new names wasn’t that big.

I arrived on the 31st.  We spent that day cleaning and preparing.  We raked a quarter mile of parking lot/driveway. We picked up trash along the street.  We cleaned up every loose twig along the shrine drive.  We vacuumed, polished, washed, and wiped down every square inch of the shrine.  (Twice: Once before the ceremonies, and once after.)  Other helpers moved the gift shop out under an awning, and broke it down again at night.  The awnings and electric lines were there when I arrived.  It was a ton of work.

The night of the 31st, there was one ceremony at midnight.  We parked cars in the cold dark.

First thing the next morning, some of us went down to the river and performed misogi.  Enough words there that it has a post of it’s own.

We then went to the shrine, warmed up, and did the morning ceremony to start the day.  And we cleaned everything again and set up the shop outside again, and opened the gates.

Opened the floodgates, as it were.

The parking filled up and backed out onto Crooked Mile Road.  The shrine grounds were full of people.  They ran out of some of the new year’s stuff at the shop.

Rev. Barrish ran a ceremony every 45 minutes, all day long, pretty much as fast as they could keep people moving.

I think we closed the gates at 7:00pm, and went down and scrubbed the shrine again.

We did it again with minor variants on the 2nd.  The ceremonies were every hour, and we never entirely ran out of parking.

I left a little early, on the 2nd.

It was a great experience, and I get to do it again in a few days!

I think I’ll have another post about why it was great, and one with some of the vignettes I remember.


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