Saturday, January 1, 2011

Beginning the New Year With Gratitude

Happy New Year my friends! My resolution for this year is to remember to greet each day with a grateful heart for all of the blessings in my life.

So I raise my glass and toast to all of you as we  step into the New Year, a brand new slate to write upon.  "Merry met, and merry part, I drink to thee with all my heart."
Slainte! (To your health!)

O-Jizo san, The Grateful Statues ~ A Japanese Folktale

Once upon a time an old man and an old woman were living in a country village in Japan. They were very poor and spent every day weaving big hats out of straw. Whenever they finished a number of hats, the old man would take them to the nearest town to sell them.

One day the old man said to the old woman: "New Year's is the day after tomorrow. How I wish we had some rice-cakes to eat on New Year's Day! Even one or two little cakes would be enough. Without some rice-cakes we can't even celebrate New Year's."

"Well, then," said the old woman, "After you've sold these hats, why don't you buy some rice-cakes and bring them back with you?"

So early the next morning the old man took the five new hats that they had made, and went to town to sell them. But after he got to town he was unable to sell a single hat. And to make things still worse, it began to snow very hard.

The old man was very sad as he began trudging wearily back toward his village. He was going along a lonesome mountain trail when he suddenly came upon a row of six stone statues of Jizo, the protector of children, all covered with snow.

"My, my! Now isn't this a pity," the old man said. "These are only stone statues of Jizo, but even so just think how cold they must be standing here in the snow."So he unfastened the five new hats from his back and began tying them, one by one, on the heads of the Jizo statues.

So he unfastened the five new hats from his back and began tying them, one by one, on the heads of the Jizo statues. When he came to the last statue he suddenly realized that all the hats were gone. "Oh, my!" he said, "I don't have enough hats." But then he remembered his own hat. So he took it off his head and tied it on the head of the last Jizo. Then he went on his way home.

When he reached his house the old woman was waiting for him by the fire. She took one look at him and cried: "You must be frozen half to death. Quick! Come to the fire. What did you do with your hat?"

The old man shook the snow out of his hair and came to the fire. He told the old woman how he had given all the new hats, and even his own hat, to the six stone Jizo. He told her he was sorry that he hadn't been able to bring any rice-cakes.

"My! That was a very kind thing you did for the Jizo," said the old woman. She was very proud of the old man, and went on: "It's better to do a kind thing like that than to have all the rice-cakes in the world. We'll get along without any rice-cakes for New Year's."

By this time it was late at night, so the old man and woman went to bed. And just before dawn, while they were still asleep, a very wonderful thing happened. Suddenly there was the sound of voices in the distance, singing:

"A kind old man walking in the snow
 Gave all his hats to the stone Jizo.
 So we bring him gifts with a yo-heave-ho!"

The voices came nearer and nearer, and then you could hear the sound of footsteps on the snow.
The sounds came right up to the house where the old man and woman were sleeping. And then all at once there was a great noise, as though something had been put down just in front of the house.

The old couple jumped out of bed and ran to the front door. When they opened it, what do you suppose they found? Well, right there at the door someone had spread a straw mat, and arranged very neatly on the mat was one of the biggest and most beautiful and freshest rice-cakes the old people had ever seen.

"Whoever could have brought us such a wonderful gift?" they said, and looked about wonderingly.

 They saw some tracks in the snow leading away from their house. The snow was all tinted with the colors of dawn, and there in the distance, walking over the snow, were the .six stone Jizo, still wearing the hats which the old man had given them.

The old man said: "It was the stone Jizo who brought this wonderful rice-cake to us."

The old woman said: "You did them a kind favor when you gave them your hats, so they brought this rice-cake to show their gratitude.

The old couple had a very wonderful New Year's Day celebration after all, because now they had this wonderful rice-cake to eat.

Another version of the story:


Two more tales to help you ring in the New Year!

Jindalai - A New Year’s Tale (Korean)It's long been said that the first flower to bloom in the spring is the jindalai, the purple rhododendron. As much as folks love seeing the first appearance of this flower, they love even more to tell the story of how this flower came to be . . .

Long, long ago, in a mountain hamlet there lived an old couple and their only child, their beloved daughter, Dalai. She was a dutiful daughter who went up into the mountains daily to chop and collect firewood.

Now on the southern slope lived a hardy young man named Jin Yu. He too would go into the mountains to gather firewood, and one day he encountered Dalai. They began to chat and soon became friends. For the rest of the story click here:

The Fairy’s New Year Gift

The Fairy's New Year Gift from
Good Stories for Great Holidays
Two little boys were at play one day when a Fairy suddenly appeared before them and said: "I have been sent to give you New Year presents."

She handed to each child a package, and in an instant was gone.Many months passed and the Fairy came again to the boys. "I have brought you each another book," said she, "and will take the first ones back to Father Time who sent them to you."

"May I not keep mine a little longer?" asked Philip. "I have hardly thought about it lately. I'd like to paint something on the last leaf that lies open."

"No," said the Fairy; "I must take it just as it is."   For the rest of the story click here .

  • The New Year was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago with the first New Moon, after the Vernal Equinox or the first day of spring
  • Their celebration lasted 11 days. In 153 B.C. the Roman senate declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. 
  • Greece began the tradition of signifying the New Year with a baby in 300 B.C.


  • Eat 12 grapes, one grape for each month of the year, for prosperity.
  • Eating pork on New Year’s Day is lucky because pigs eat moving forward. Therefore, those who eat pork will move forward in the coming year.
  • Poultry should never be eaten on January 1. Poultry scratch for their food, so those who eat poultry will "scratch" for their food all year.
  • Many cultures believe that eating food in the shape of a ring on New Year’s Day will bring luck throughout the year. It signifies “coming full circle.”
  • Eating cabbage is also good luck as the leaves symbolize paper currency and prosperity. Legumes, black- eyed peas, and ham are also thought to bring wealth if they are consumed on New Year’s Day.


Toasting can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. The host would drink first to assure his guest the wine was not poisoned. Since wine was not as refined as it is today they would place a square of burnt bread (toast) in the wine bowl. The bread was placed there to absorb the extra acidity of the wine. Eventually, drinking in unison came to be called a toast, from the act of “toasting” or putting toast in wine.

Information for the above was found at this site.  




Easy to Read Folktale Plays to Teach Conflict Resolution – Extension Activities to complement the story of The Grateful Statues.


Please note, websites change at a rapid pace and weblinks may change or break without notice. I cannot be responsible for redirected or broken links.  At the time of this posting all links were in working order. Thank you for understanding.


Karen Chace 2011 ©

This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.