Sending cards to relatives, welcoming the first dawn, abstaining from fire for the first three days is the Japanese New Year’s tradition for many generations.
Although Japan does not welcome the Lunar New Year and moves to the solar calendar, the people here still keep many customs to welcome the new year and have similarities with other countries Vietnam, China …
Old year farewell party
Every year, during December, Japanese people often hold bonenkai (old year farewell party). This is a chance for employees of companies, business partners and friends to end the year, to forget about the sorrows of the old year and look forward to the new year with a fresh spirit. Even during the corporate party, the solemn atmosphere quickly disappeared after the congratulation. The guests will be relaxed gradually and will begin to talk and eat informally. Some parties also have fun activities, games, or karaoke.
Enjoy the first sun of the year
Japanese tourists and people waiting to watch the sunrise at Tokyo Sky Tree in 2016. Video: Japan Times.
One of the most special ways to celebrate the new year in Japan is Hatsuhinode – waiting for the first sun of the year. This is a traditional custom, an opportunity for everyone in your family or friends to go out together to catch the dawn. The Japanese concept that the new year god Toshigami will appear with the sun. To enjoy that beautiful moment, many Japanese go to places with high terrain to catch the dawn earlier. In the heart of Tokyo, people flock to the Tokyo Sky Tree or the government office.
New year decorations
A new year kadomatsu decoration in Japan. Photo: Matcha.
Kadomatsu, traditional New Year’s decoration, is the Japanese way of placing decorations on the doorstep to invite fine spirits. The object is usually made of bamboo pieces of different lengths, pine branches and the base of which is grass and straw. These items are placed outside the doorway from the end of December to the end of the first week of January. Bamboo bars symbolize prosperity while pine trees represent longevity. Kadomatsu is said to be a way to create a temporary shelter for the gods to visit the world and bless people. They will be burned away after January 15.
Send cards to relatives and friends
Nengajo is the Japanese New Year card. In addition to meeting and greeting each other on holidays, people also express their appreciation by sending cards to those who have helped in the past year and hope they continue to support and love in the new year. Sending nengajo cards is an important Japanese custom. These cards are beautifully decorated, and feature the animal of the year. They usually send cards from the beginning of December to ensure that the recipient will have cards in the first month of the new year. The best thing about nengajo cards is that they remind you of your friends, co-workers, family members …
Ring the bell to welcome the new year
This tradition is somewhat similar to the countdown of time in Western countries. In Japan, this is a special event and each region holds its own style. A few minutes before the beginning of the new year, Buddhist temples ring 108-long bells as part of the Joya no kane. This ritual is held to purify people’s souls for the coming new year. In Tokyo, the famous temples that hold this ceremony are Zojoji Temple near Tokyo Tower and to Sensoji in Asakusa area.
On New Year’s Eve, many people visit temples and pagodas because the first trip of the year is usually a sacred visit (called hatsumoude in Japanese). If you choose a Buddhist temple, you will witness the Joya no kane ritual.
Making traditional worship cakes
Kagami mochi is a type of cake made from rice flour, made during Tet to present to the New Year deities. On top of the round mochi is an orange. The cake is placed around a Shinto shrine on the last days of the year until January 11. On Tet occasion, Japanese people offer Mochi cakes to pray for longevity. On top of the kagami-mochi, an orange is placed wishing for a prosperous family.
Enjoy the New Year meal
The New Year celebrations are called osechi-ryori. Photo: Matcha.
Osechi-ryori is a collection of traditional dishes usually eaten during the first three days of the new year. Each Osechi dish has its own meaning. For example, the fried fish dish brings plentiful health for the new year, while the bean dish means financial luck.
The Japanese refrain from using fire on the first three days of the year to welcome Toshigami (the New Year god). Therefore, during those days, the person in charge of the housework was not required to work. Food must be prepared before New Year’s Eve and everyone can enjoy it for the next three days.
Lucky money for children
Otoshidama is a custom to give money to children as a New Year’s gift. It is a way of honoring the efforts they have made while attending school during the past year, and at the same time hoping for a happy and happy new year. Otoshidama are usually parents, grandparents, uncles and uncles happy for children in the family. The older the child is, the more money the child gets. They will be paid in envelopes.
Visiting temples and pagodas at the beginning of the year
Hatsumoude is the tradition of visiting temples at the beginning of the new year. The Japanese start a new year by praying and wishing for a peaceful, healthy and prosperous year. Visits to temples will be made as soon as possible, usually only during the first week of the new year. Next to the temple on this occasion there are many shops selling food and drinks. Eating during and after going to Mass is also a way to ward off evil.