My friend Mary shared an item on Facebook today that caught my attention. She posted about the Japanese Festival of Hari-Kuyo, the festival of broken needles. I'd never heard of it, and given my interest both in all things Japanese and with sewing, I felt I needed to know more.
I started my research with Wikipedia, where I found the following:
"Hari-Kuyō is the Japanese Buddhist and Shinto Festival of Broken Needles, celebrated on February 8 in the Kanto region, but on December 8 in the Kyoto and Kansai regions. It is celebrated by women in Japan as a memorial to all the needles broken in their service during the past year, and as an opportunity to pray for improved skills. It is also called the Needle Mass and Pin Festival."Hari" means "needle" and the suffix "-kuyou" means "memorial"."
On February 8th, housekeepers and professional needle workers (such as kimono makers) carry their bent and broken needles to shrines and temples, and stick them into a slab of tofu or konnyaku (a rather tasteless soft jelly cake). The tofu is a soft resting place for the items, offering them appropriate respect and a proper farewell. At the same time, the festival goers pray for better sewing skills in the coming year.
There is another aspect of this tradition that really appealed to me. Burying the needles in the tofu also buries the troubles that occurred while using them. It is a way to find consolation, to let go of the pain of the past year.
I don't know about you, but when I look at a quilt, I can remember what was going on in my life while making it. The good and the bad. So using the spent needles to release the pain makes perfect sense to me.
I found a lovely on-line pamphlet on Hari-Kuyo by Audrey Lang. If you wish to learn more, you can read it here.
I decided to retire my broken/bent pins and needles for the year. To show respect for the work they have enabled me to do, and to offer them a wonderful retirement.