“ Before all things reborn again. You learn the painful breath of time” –French band Gojira from the song Born in Winter
Every human culture is built upon fundamental elements that foster a cohesive society. These include concepts of identity, both personal and communal, social contracts like marriage, and acknowledgment of life milestones such as birth, adulthood, and death. These elements serve as foundational pillars, supporting the intricate web of societal frameworks and the responsibilities and interactions necessary for its maintenance.
At the core of this societal development lies our profound comprehension of time, intertwined with every facet of existence. While some animals may perceive changing seasons, humans uniquely grasp the concept of time’s passage, a quintessential aspect of our humanity. This understanding not only emphasizes our mortality but also imbues every moment with a sense of urgency, clarifying priorities and bringing focus to the mind.
This awareness of time also fosters deeper introspection, leading to a realization that merely existing is insufficient. Living purposefully, with passion and meaningful contributions, becomes imperative. However, this pursuit is far from straightforward.
This brings us to Kagami Biraki and its relevance. While time’s passage instills a sense of urgency and purpose, it also carries a burden of existential anxiety, confronting us with our mortality. This tension can lead to profound unease and negative consequences if left unchecked.
To navigate this existential dilemma, I propose that New Year celebrations, observed across cultures, offer a valuable avenue through this dilemma.
Across Asia, lunar calendars dictate the timing of New Year celebrations, typically occurring from mid-January to early February. These festivities, exemplified by Chinese New Year parades, symbolize the transition from the old to the new year, providing a glimpse into past ways of life, often intertwined with martial arts traditions.
In Japan, New Year celebrations, known as Kagami Biraki, hold a special significance. The term, translating to “breaking the mirror,” references one of Japan’s three sacred treasures—the mirror, symbolizing wisdom.
Wisdom, akin to understanding time’s passage, transcends mere knowledge or intellect. It emerges from a synthesis of learning, experience, and intuition, inherently human yet elusive and invaluable.
In Kagami Biraki, breaking the mirror symbolizes a pivotal moment of reflection, echoing the practices of traditional Chinese medicine. This ancient wisdom teaches that holistic health requires inner reflection and acceptance of one’s reality, epitomized by the mirror’s reflective symbolism.
By embracing this introspection, individuals gain clarity about their past and present, laying the groundwork for a purposeful future. This cyclical process of reflection and action mirrors the essence of time itself, as depicted by Janus, the Roman god of transitions.
Breaking the mirror signifies leaving behind the past, stepping into the future unburdened by guilt or shame. It symbolizes a conscious choice to confront the unknown with courage and purpose, easing the tension of conscious awareness.
Participating in such rituals not only soothes individual anxieties but also strengthens communal bonds, offering a collective balm for the soul. Thus, these traditions play a central role in fostering societal stability and coherence, navigating the complexities of human existence in the relentless march of time.