Japanese New Year is very much a family event. Japanese New Year is a key part of Japanese Culture and includes visits to Japanese temples and shrines. Unlike the Chinese New Year, Japanese New Year is held at the same time of the year (same calendar) as western countries.
Japanese New Year involves people gift giving. Oseibo is the most common issue as a New Year gift. They give it to their superiors, customers and teachers to express appreciation for the special services they have extended to them.
Bonenkai is a party usually held among office colleagues and bosses. Bonenkai literally means a “Forget-the-year party” to forget the unpleasant memories of the passing year and to welcome the New Year with a fresh and serene mind. At the party, bosses usually tell their stuff to be Breiko (to forget their position and be impolite!), because the relationship in the workplace in Japan is a bit strict. For example, Japanese language has various expression for each word. One is called a polite word and another is called a modest word. People use these words in formal situation such as in a workplace.
Omisoka is the day of New Year’s Eve. Since the New Year is the biggest event in Japan, people celebrate the Eve as well. People work so hard to prepare the New Year around one or two weeks such as cleaning (like spring cleaning in here) and shopping. The reason people do the cleaning in the middle of winter is to get rid of the dirty of the passing year and to welcome the New Year with a fresh and serene mind. And on Omisoka, with preparing the New Year’s special dishes called Osechi-ryori, people finish up all the work of the year. People eat Toshikoshi-soba at night and stay up till midnight to listen to the 108 chimes of a nearby temple bell. Toshikoshi-soba is a bowl of hot brown noodles in broth. The noodle is a homophone for a word that means “being close” and therefore signifies the approach of the New Year. The 108 chimes called Joya-no-kane, rings out the old year and rings in the New Year. It is supposed to release people from the 108 worldly sins.
Shogatsu is the celebration of the New Year and is the most important holiday in Japan. Entrances are decorated with a Shimekezari. A Shimekazari is a twisted straw rope with fern leaves, an orange and other items of good omen. Family gather to their hometown and spend the time together. People celebrate the New Year with sweet sake called Toso, a soup called Zoni and Osechi-ryori during the holiday.
During the holiday, people give special allowances to their children, nephews and nieces called Otoshidama. New Year is the busiest season for toy shops to attract children to spend their Otoshidama.
People send a lot of greeting cards to their relatives, friends, business acquaintances and customers to wish them a happy New Year. Post offices in Japan collect and keep them then deliver them on the New Year day all at once. This is a good opportunity to keep in touch with old friends and acquaintances.
The shrines all over Japan are packed with people from the New year’s day to January 3rd. People go to shrine to pray for safety, happiness and long lives of the family. A lot of people are dressed up with their Kimono and buy a good luck talisman called Omamori. It is kept as a protection from illness, accidents and disasters.
How to write “Happy New Year” in Japanese – あけましておめでとうございます
How to say “Happy New Year” in Japanese – Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu