Japanese New Year

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In ancient times, the Japanese New Year ( Japanese 正月 shōgatsu , with honorary prefix お 正月 o-shōgatsu ) as well as the Chinese and Korean New Year and the Vietnamese Tết festival were celebrated according to the lunisolar calendar at the beginning of spring. Since 1873 following Japan the Gregorian calendar and the New Year was on January 1 fixed. One of the most important traditional holidays of the year, it has been celebrated for centuries and has developed its own unique customs.

Traditional Japanese New Year dishes

The Japanese eat a number of special dishes on New Year's Day; these traditional New Year dishes , Japanese osechi-ryōri , are usually called "osechi" for short. These include miso soup with rice cake ( mochi ) and vegetables - zoni soup , tuna ( maguro ) wrapped in sweet boiled seaweed ( kombu ) - kobumaki , jellied fish paste - kamaboko , pureed sweet potato with sweet chestnut - kurikinton and sweetened black ( soy) -) beans ( kuromame ).

Many of the traditional dishes are sweet or sour because they last longer. At the time of their invention, most stores closed for a week over the New Year and the refrigerator had not yet been invented.

There are many variations of "Osechi", some dishes that are eaten in one place are never eaten in other places on New Year's Day or are even "forbidden" on that day. Today sashimi and sushi are often eaten, but also pizza , fried chicken and ice cream. To give the overworked stomach a break, there is “seven-herb rice soup ” ( nanakusagayu , 七 草 粥 ) on the 7th or 15th day of the year .

New year cards

Material for Nengajō

In Japan there is a custom of sending postcards ( 年 賀 状 nengajō ) to friends and relatives on New Year's Day - similar to how Christmas cards are sent in Europe and America. Its original purpose was to give distant friends and relatives a sign of life from themselves and their own family. Today it is almost a duty to write New Year's cards to friends and people to whom one owes respect. People in higher positions receive a few hundred cards a year, and shopkeepers send out a corresponding number of cards. Even with forms, at least the address should be handwritten. In December you often hear the half-joke, half-tortured question "How far are you with your New Year's cards?"

It is customary not to exchange greeting cards if someone in the family has died during the year. In this case, you send simpler postcards to inform friends and relatives that you will withhold congratulations due to the death in your own family and that you do not expect any greeting cards.

The cards show the Chinese New Year's zodiac sign , for example a rooster for 2017, and a more or less personal message.

Nengajō are sold in paper shops as preprinted cards with stamps printed on them. In addition to the symbolic animal of the year, many of these contain formal greetings, such as the usual New Year's greeting akemashite omedetō gozaimasu ( 明 け ま し て お め で と う ご ざ い ま す ) or just akemashite ( 明 け ま し て ), which translates as the beginning of the new year " . You can also have a place for the sender to write a personal message. Others use blank cards and write or draw their own card. Rubber stamps with greetings and the zodiac sign are sold in department stores, and many people buy refillable writing brushes to write congratulations. Special pressure devices are particularly popular with artisans. For business people and companies, print shops offer a variety of preprinted cards with short messages so that the sender only has to write the addresses. So far, email does not replace the traditional nengajō in Japan.

To a large extent, however, New Year's postcards are now being created on the computer itself. There is a wide range of software available for creating and printing the cards, and television also explains to older generations how to use the technology, for example including a family photo. In this way, original and personal cards can be created in large numbers at low cost.

The post offices deliver these cards exactly on January 1st if they are marked with the addition "New Year's Card " ( 年 賀 状 nengajō ) and are thrown into an extra compartment in the mailbox by a certain day in December. New Year's cards from senders who were not greeted with a greeting will be answered until mid-January. Late December / early January is the busiest time for the Japanese Post . Every year, the post offices hire many students to help with the processing.


On New Year's Day it is customary to give the children pocket money. This is known as Toshidama ( 年 玉 ) or Otoshidama ( お 年 玉 ) and is a custom adopted from China. The money is presented in small, decorated envelopes ('pochibukuro', descendants of the Chinese "red parcel"). The amount depends on the age of the child. If there are several children, they usually all get the same amount so that nobody feels disadvantaged.


In the Edo period , large shops and wealthy families distributed small bags of mochi (rice cake) and a tangerine to spread happiness around the world.

Mochi is still made before New Year's Day and eaten at the beginning of January.

The New Year decoration Kagami-Mochi is also made from mochi . It consists of two round mochi, a daidai (bitter orange) and other decorations.


The New Year traditions are also part of Japanese poetry , including haiku and renga . All of the above traditions can be used as the kigo ( word of the season) in haiku . There are also haiku, which celebrate many things that happen the first time at the New Year, like "first sun" ( hatsuhi ) or "first sunrise", "first smile" ( waraizome - starting the new year with a smile is considered good Characters viewed) and "First Dream" ( hatsuyume ). Since the New Year was originally later in the year, many of these poems mention the beginning of spring.

With regard to the New Year's cards , haiku can for example mention the "first letter" ( hatsudayori ), the "first calligraphy" ( kakizome ) and the "first brush" ( fude hajime ).


It is to play in Japan also custom specific to New Year's Games: Hanetsuki , Takoage ( kite flying ), coma (a game with a dice-gyro) Sugoroku , Fukuwarai (a person placed blindfolded parts of a face (eyes, eyebrows, Nose and mouth) on a paper face), karuta (card games), etc.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: 謹 賀 新年  - explanations of meanings, word origins , synonyms, translations