Akemash-teh Omedeto Gozaimasu -- Happy New Year!
A kadomatsu faces the encroaching snow
In Japan, as the new year approaches, the front of many homes will be ornamented with a pair of kadomatsu. Kadomatsu can be as elaborate as the photo above or as simple as two branches of pine hanging on the front gate.
According to my husband, the kadomatsu is set out like a welcoming banner, to beckon toshigami--the "year's god"; although who this god is exactly seems to be somewhat unclear)--into the home. For more information on kadomatsu and what the different components (pine, bamboo, plum, etc.) represent: check out this link.