Shiwasu is a Japanese traditional name for December. Shiwasu (師走) literally means “teachers run.” It is a generally accepted interpretation today that everyone gets extremely busy in this month to complete unfinished tasks of the year and prepare for the coming new year including house cleaning and cooking for New Year’s Day. Thus even teachers can’t help running around.
However, the word “Shiwasu” derives from “Shihase-zuki,” which literally means the month when priests visit. In the old days in Japan, December was the time when people held a memorial service for their ancestors just like they do during the Bon period, from which custom it was the month when priests were busy visiting every house of villages or towns.
December is also called Harumachi-zuki, meaning the month to wait for spring, or Kureko-zuki, the year end month. It gets severely cold and quite a few places are attacked by heavy snow. Few plants produce flowers in this month except Camellia sasanqua. Its red flowers add colors to deserted landscapes of the cold winter.