O-mikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Literally ‘sacred lot’, these are usually received by making a small offering of generally a five-yen coin as it is considered good luck and randomly choosing one from a box, hoping for the resulting fortune to be good. The o-mikuji is scrolled up or folded, and unrolling the piece of paper reveals the fortune written on it. It includes a general blessing with a fortune regarding specific aspects of one’s life.
During the wake of a death person, family and friends bring paper flower wreaths that have banners printed with verses or rhymes. They also give the family white envelopes holding money in odd amounts to help pay for the funeral and bring good luck to the dead person, with the largest amounts from family members. Family members fold prayer paper into the shape of as many Chinese coins as possible to bring more good luck to their loved one in the afterlife.
According to a Chinese myth, the New Year Monster does not like the color red or the sound of fireworks. In order to scare off the monster, people hang bright red decorations on their houses and light off fireworks during the week of celebration. For the last four days there has been a constant bang of fireworks as everyone plays their part in scaring away the monster. People traditionally decorate their houses with flowers, fruit, lanterns and scrolls displaying messages of good wishes and fortune. Red, orange and gold are popular decoration colours.
More contemporary varieties of Joss paper include cheques, credit cards, smartphones, iPad as well as clothes, houses, cars, toiletries, pizza boxes and servants. The designs on items of cardboard vary from the very simple to very elaborate with custom artwork and names. In some Chinese mythology these objects are sent by living relatives to dead ancestors for a shorter stay or to escape punishment, or for the ancestors to use themselves in spending on lavish items in the afterlife.