Countdown to First Night Sanity Saver: Ōmisoka

Presented by Independent Health

By: Jacalyn Slingerland, Play to Learn Facilitator

Download a PDF version of this lesson here!

This lesson gives your child the opportunity to create a Buddhist bell, also called a bonshō. A bonshō’s ring is supposed to offer a fresh start for the New Year.


one paper cup 
paint brush
pipe cleaner or ribbon
a jingle bell (optional)


Set up: 2 Minutes

Activity: 20-30 Minutes 

Inactive time: 10-15 minutes

Academic Subject(s): 

Art, Social Studies

SS 3.4a, 3.4b, 3.5a, 2.6, 2.8, 1.8

VA: CR 1.2. 1,2,3a 

VA: PR 5. 1,2,3a

This lesson supports areas of Elementary Education:

While celebrating this year’s holidays from home, there is a great opportunity to see how other cultures and other nations celebrate the holidays.  With this lesson your child will be able to experience new traditions and cultures. Japan celebrates the new year with many special traditions. The celebration of the new year is called Ōmisoka. It is common to clean the office and home, and to pay bills. This allows a fresh start for the new year! By dinner time a large feast is prepared. Enough food is usually made for the next few days, because it is considered unlucky to cook in your home for the first 3 days of the new year. Finally, many visit the Buddhist temples in the last half hour of Ōmisoka. The bonshō are tolled 107 times before midnight, and once after. The bells ring when they are hit with either a hammer or a beam. We will share with you how to make your own bonshō.


Step 1: Have a grown up gently make 2 holes in the bottom of your cup using scissors. 

Step 2: Paint your bonshō. Bonshō are usually made of bronze, so I painted mine using brown, black and white paint. Allow some time to dry. 

Step 3: Once your bell is dry, make designs on It with marker. With a grown up’s help, you can search for Bonshō reference images, if you need inspiration. 

Step 4: Thread your (optional) jingle bell through your pipe cleaner, then thread the pipe cleaner through the holes you made earlier. In reality, bonshō do not have clappers in the center. This bell in the center allows your paper cup to make a ringing noise when you hit it. 

Step 5: Twist the pipe cleaner at the top. You can make it into an interesting shape if you’d like.

Step 6: Hit your bell from the outside, what kind of noises does it make? Only 107 more tolls to go! 

Vocabulary Words 

Japan: A country consisting of a chain of islands along the eastern coast of Asia.

Ōmisoka: Literally translates to “last great day”. It is the celebration of the new year. 

Bonshō: Large hanging bells kept in Buddhist temples throughout Japan, used to summon the monks to prayer and to demarcate periods of time.

Bronze: Metal that is a mixture of copper and tin

Buddhism: a widespread Asian religion or philosophy, founded by Siddhartha Gautama.

Temples: A building devoted to worship

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