New Year is a time of great celebration all over Japan. The Japanese have been celebrating this day on the 1st of January as per the Gregorian calendar only since 1873. Before that, they used to celebrate New Year in the month of spring, as per the Chinese lunar calendar. The people of Japan welcome New Year with great zeal and enthusiasm and follow several customs and traditions on this day. Read on to know all about the interesting New Year celebrations in Japan.
New Year Celebrations In Japan
Japanese people have several typical traditions that they follow on New Year. They prepare delicious dishes on the day; some of which have to be prepared compulsorily. Their traditional set of dishes is called osechi-ryori and contains a group of items, like boiled seaweed, mashed sweet potato with chestnut, sweetened black soybeans, fish cakes and simmered burdock root. Japanese also have a special soup for the celebration, known as ozone, which contains miso. All the traditional foods are made in such a way that they can be stored for a long period of time, even without the refrigerator.
On the seventh day of January, Japanese people prepare a soup out of the seven herbs. It is called jinjitsu and helps in relaxing and soothing the heavily-laden stomach. They customarily make rice cakes called mochi for the New Year celebration as well. The rice cake is prepared by patting boiled sticky rice in a wooden container with water, by using a large wooden mallet. The rice cake is eaten in the beginning of January. In Japan, people even make a special decoration of mocha called the kagami mocha, on the day. In kagami mocha, they place two round mocha one on the other and put a bitter orange on top of it.
The Japanese send postcards to their near and dear ones on the New Year day. This custom of sending postcards is as popular as the exchange of Christmas cards in United States. The post offices in Japan assure people that the postcards would be delivered by the 1st of January, provided they are posted within the mid and end of December. The postcards are to be marked with the word nengajo, which acts as the symbol for the post offices to deliver them as soon as possible. The post offices even hire students on part-time basis, to help them in the delivery of these postcards. People take care not to send a postcard if there is any death in the family. In this case, they just send a simple postcard, informing every one that as a sign of respect to the deceased soul, they should not send the New Year cards.
In Japan, There is a popular custom of giving money to the children on New Year. This custom is called otoshidama. As a part of the customs, people hand over the money to children in small attractive envelopes, called pochibukuro. They also play some traditional games on New Year, like koma, takoage, fukuwarai, karuta, hanetsuki, sugoroku, etc. There are also several entertainment programs, organized exclusively for the celebration. People also watch the first sunrise of the year, which they call Hatsuhinode. Many people visit a shrine or temple, either after the midnight on 31st December or on morning of 1st Janauary. This first trip of the year is known as Hatsumode. They also mark several other firsts in the New Year, like hatsugama (first tea ceremony), keiko-hajime (first practice), shigoto-hajime (first work) and so on.