Happy New Year everyone! First of all, I would like to wish everyone a great year to come. Spend today wisely as it will reflect the whole year you will be having for 2013! (Or, so I would like to believe!)
In Japan, New Year’s day is an important holiday and the holiday, would usually last from 31st December up to 3rd January. During this period of time, businesses tend to close so that they can spend time with their families and friends.
In the Meiji Period, New Year’s Day used to be celebrated based on the Chinese lunar Calendar and not on the 1st of January. Then, in 1873, Japanese started to celebrated New Year based on the Gregorian Calendar, on the 1st of January. Even so, in Ryukyu Islands and Okinawa, they still follow the Chinese lunar Calendar.
The Japanese have a custom of sending New Year’s Day cards (年賀状 nengajo) to their friends and relatives. These cards usually have pictures of Chinese Zodiac animals which represents the coming year, together with a New Year’s greeting. For 2013, it will be the year of the snake.
sobs why snakes You can send your own nengajo online >here<
When the end of year draws by, people starts to clean their homes and workplace in preparation for the New Year’s. News programs often shows the cleaning of the Nara daibutsu (Nara Great Buddha) with monks climbing to clean them.
More pictures and information> here<
One of the highlights would be on the New Year’s Eve. At midnight of 31st of December, Buddhist temples around Japan will ring their bells 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen. People at shrines will offer their offerings and pray.
During the day or evening of New Year’s Eve, toshikoshi soba is eaten as it symbolizes longevity and ensure prosperity. In the evening, many Japanese will also watch 紅白歌合戦 Kouhaku Uta Gassen , which literally means Red and White Song Battle. All the famous J-pop and enka singers will be invited to perform in Kouhaku. I have previously written a post about Kouhaku here .
The night of New Year’s eve, after welcoming the New Year, the celebrant goes to sleep, hoping to dream of Mount Fuji, Eggplants or Hawks. This 3 are auspicious and good omens for the New Year. The viewing of first sunrise is thought to be a good and proper start for the New Year.
Special meals called 御節料理 osechi ryori, prepared at the end of the year before, are eaten on January 1-3. Osechi usually consist of traditional dishes. Otoso (sweetened rice wine) and ozoni (a soup with mochi) are also eaten.
On the 7th of January(人日 jinjitsu) 七草粥 nanakusagayu is made.
You can try to make these dishes yourself as long as you have the ingredients. Here’s a link to the recipes >Here< by one of my favourite channels.
There are also a few games traditionally played on New Year, however, their popularity has decreased in recent times. Such games are like takoage (flying kites), koma (spinning tops), and playing karuta (a traditional Japanese card game), hanetsuki (Japanese badminton), fuku warai (Lucky Laugh), and sugoroku(A type of Japanese board game).
On New Year’s Day, children receives お年玉 otoshidama from adults. It is usually decorated in small decorated packets called pochibukuro or otoshidama-bukuro.
I hope everyone will have a good day and a good year.
今年もまたよろしくお願いします！(Kotoshi mo mata yoroshiku onegaishimasu)
All pictures are found on Google images, credits to respective owners. I do not own any of the pictures or information.
VP ヲンー：I was asked to set the Featured Image (credit); the image is a rising sun on New Year’s behind Mt. Fuji, observed at Yamanashi prefecture, Japan. The first sunrise of the year is called Hatsu hinode (kanji: 初日の出) and in Japan, it is considered highly auspicious to greet the first day of the new year by watching the sun rise. More info about hatsu hinode here!