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The Morikami celebrates the Japanese New Year with both eyes open

Due to flooding in Palm Beach County on Thursday night, Morikami organizers have postponed the Oshogatsu festival, originally scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 12, until Sunday, Jan. 19. The festival will operate from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. that day.

On Sunday, Jan. 19, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens' celebration of the Japanese New Year will trot out games, the rhythmic echo of taiko drumming, warm sake and this year's animal from the Asian zodiac cycle: the horse.

This family-friendly day, called "Oshogatsu: A New Year's Celebration," will mark 2014 as the Year of the Horse with a one-day exhibit of stallion-themed paintings and other works, including a Shinto bell display, that signify the new year, says Morikami collections curator Veljko Dujin.

"The horse is known for its humbleness, patience and extreme tolerance, and tries to be hardworking, and self-sufficient and self-reliant," Dujin says of the animal's mythology. "Horse people are also pretty temperamental, too, so the emotions can be contradictory."

The Japanese labor for weeks to set a proper tone before the new year by vigorously cleaning the house, paying off debts and preparing tea and mochi cakes. At the Morikami, visitors are only on the hook for enjoying tea, soba noodles, coconut shrimp and mochi, edible patties that Dujin will create by pulverizing red-bean paste and sticky rice with a large wooden mallet.

Other sounds competing for your attention will be a taiko demonstration; a performance of the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument; and, new this year, a presentation of proper techniques for sake brewing by expert Carrie Becker. Sake flights, with three different flavors of the rice wine, will be served to visitors 21 or older.

"Oshogatsu is considered the most important holiday in Japan, and the New Year always holds traditional significance," says Samantha Levine, the museum's marketing manager. "All the foods we're eating are also meaningful. They symbolize longevity and good luck, wishing health and happiness for the new year."

Elsewhere at the festival is a DIY Daruma Wall, adorned with dozens of hollow, egg-shaped papier-mache dolls, each containing a distinctive face and no eyes. Families must draw one eye on the doll after making a New Year's wish, Levine says. Last year's Daruma Wall is also on display, allowing the previous year's visitors to complete the second eye if their New Year's wish came true. The Morikami is also featuring Oshogatsu games and T-shirt screen-printings.

"Oshogatsu: A New Year's Celebration" will take place 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, 4000 Morikami Park Road, in Delray Beach. Admission is $10-$15. Call 561-495-0233 or go to

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