Japanese New Year customs

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Unlike other Asian countries, Japan takes New Year as the rest of the world does, it means that they use solar calendar instead of linar calendar although in the past their New Year was based on Lunar circle. No matter what happen, the beautiful costumes and tradditon are still here, in the sunrise country like they have never faded.

>> Visiting pagodas and temples in the New Year

Preparation

Cleaning the houses

Japanese people are always busy with work and social duty, they are so hard-working and high-concentrating in their job, that is also why they don’t really have time caring their houses. New Year vacation is the best opportunity for family members gather together and tighten the relationship via simply work such as, decorating the houses with flowers, cleaning everything. In a japanses houses, most of houseware are made of  pine wood, bamboo and plum wood. From the kitchen to the doorway, no dust can exist, houseware must be exactly where they should be.

Together we make a beautiful house

To pray a peaceful and lucky new year, each family will hang a bunch of Kadomatsu in front of the gate. It is said that, Toshigamisama will go to the earth and hide in a Kadomatsu – cedrus tree. Commonly, people make a Kodamatsu tree on December 13th. However, making Kodamatsu tree is forbidden from 29th night because it is unlucky

Kagami-mochi

The cakes are called Kagami-mochi, which means that the “Mochi offered to the gods”. Kagami means ‘mirror’ while mochi is ‘rice cake’. The round-shape of mochi represents the soul of a human being and is similar to a mirror commonly used for Shinto ceremonies. Kagami-mochi consists of two stacked mochi and a Japanese tangerine – Mikan, representing the moon and the sun. In combination, they are the symbol of luck.

Kagami-mochi via AllAbout-Japan.com

Year-end banquet – bonenkai

In December, year-end banquet (bonenkai) was held between friends and colleagues to bid farewell to the old year. This party has no fixed date but is held from mid-December till the end of the year. It usually takes place in restaurants, large eateries, traditional Japanese style restaurant, and includes musical instruments, audio, projectors, etc.

Gifts and Cards

Traditionally, the Japanese will send gifts in December, at the year-end.  In addition, they also write and send New Year greetings card (nengajo) so that everyone can receive in the new year. These cards usually have twelve cute images or family photos.

Mochi-Tsuki – rice cake

As Japanese people usually eat Mochi cake in New Year eve, rice milling is usually done at the end of the year. They used a wooden pestle to grind glutinous rice cooked in a stone or wood mortar. When the rice turns into powder, it will be divided into small pieces and squeezed into rounds. Today’s mochi is available in every supermarket, this custom is not as popular as it was. Many people even use automatic pacemakers to make mochi at home.

Travel

Since many people are off work from the last weekend of December to the first weekend of January, this is one of the most popular tourist seasons in Japan. They can go home after a busy year or go on vacation.

Toshikoshi soba noodles

Toshikoshi soba noodles are a hallmark of New Year’Eve (Omisoka) – long filaments that symbolize longevity. The soba noodle shops across the country are very busy serving on these days of the year.

Nengajo via HATJ

During the 3 first days

Eat Ozoni and Osechi

According to the ancient legend of Japan, on the first day of the new year, the god Toshidon will appear, bestowed the good and obedient baby a thick Ozoni cake. Since then, with the desire to enjoy many gifts of the gods, Japanese people often eat Ozoni on the 1st day of the Lunar New Year.

Osechi box

Osechi is a New Year’s Day meal, set in very special large square boxes, with plenty of items inside, each symbolizes a wish in the new year.

Lucky money – Otoshidama

Normally, children will receive lovely red envelopes including money, the money is used for learning and buying beautiful things. Older people use the money as an accumulation, in case suffering from bad health. These gifts are very meaningful in the New Year.

Visiting Temple – Hatsumoude

Japanese people often visit temples in the early days of the year and wish to be prosperous, healthful and peaceful.

Folk games

These are great activities for participants. Games that Japanese people play on New Year’s Day are Takoage kiteflying, Hanetsuki – badminton, Komamawashi – spinning …

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