Re: new years day Practice
The first couple of years I was at New England Aikikai, we had a new year's eve practice from 11:30PM to about 12:30. Kanai Sensei would do a small Shinto ceremony at the beginning (it involved lighting incense, some clapping, and chanting), then we went on to practice. It seems to me that one year we did a set of 108 ikkyos (shomenuchi swariwaza), and that later on, and definitely after the New Year's practice had been moved to noon or so on New Year's Day, he had each instructor show a technique. After the midnight practice, we had a potluck. Yasu Itoh (now head instructor of Aikido Tekkojuku Boston) always brought a traditional Japanese New Year's soup. David Halprin made his chicken curry, and there was a reasonable amount of beer, wine, and champagne, but I never saw it get into heavy drinking. It was just a great observance.
I really miss Kanai Sensei right now!
Anyway, I would love to get a New Year's night practice together, here, but it's a small dojo and I don't think there'd be much interest. A few of us got together for some free practice on New Year's day afternoon this year, but it wasn't anything special or ceremonial.