I thought I'd end the year with some photos of traditional Japanese New Year decorations.
The Kadomatsu are placed in pairs outside gates to homes and offices starting after Christmas until January 7. They are temporary housing for Kami (ancestral spirits in shinto).
Made of bamboo, pine and sometimes Ume (plum) sticks, the construction is placed on a straw mat and wrapped with woven straw rope. The opening of the bamboo must remain free and open to allow the spirits to enter. The cuts are made at a slant to allow the largest open surface area. Fern leaves and fruit can also be added. More details on building your own here and here.
To the loyal readers of the blog (all 87 of you): I thank you for your continued support and readership throughout the year. I wish you, and all those that you care about, all the very best for 2009 The year of the Ox (or Cow depending on how you translate it.)