New Year is definitely one of the most important occasions in Japanese calendar. All Japanese families celebrate this occasion with elan and vigor.
It is celebrated on January 1, but before 1873, it was observed according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Even though the date of the celebration has changed, the occasion is celebrated with proper Japanese New Year traditions.
This event is so important for the Japanese that all the offices, institutions, factories, and shops remain closed for the entire day.
Popular Japanese New Year Traditions
Otoshidama: Otoshidama is an old New Year tradition of Japan, in which they give money to the kids. In this custom, you have to handle a decorated envelop to the children. The amount of the money, which the Japanese offer to the children, depends upon the age of the children.
Mochi: Mochi is a tradition, when people make rice cakes on Japanese New Year. The main purpose of making Mochi is decorative. Mochi is made in kagami mochi. Daidai, a bitter orange is placed at the top of the decoration. Mochi is made before New Year and is eaten when the celebrations of New Year begins.
Japanese New Year Customs
There are a number of Japanese New Year customs, among them, some important ones are mentioned below:
- In order to keep away the evil spirits, the Japanese hangs a straw rope in front of the entrance of their home. This brings good fortune.
- At the juncture of New Year, they start laughing and they think that this would keep away the evil spirits.
- The Japanese go to the temple and ring the temples bells 108 times. They think that ringing the bell 108 times will keep away all the evil forces.
- Those, who believe in the Shinto religion, decorate their houses with green plants and bamboo. Green plants signify new life and bamboo signifies honesty.
- Japanese makes lobsters with paper and decorate their house with them. They think that they back side of the lobsters resembles an aged person, which symbolizes an earnest desire for endurance.
Japanese New Year celebrations start from January 1 and it lasts for two weeks. It is celebrated in two festivals: The Greater festival and the Lesser festival. In the Greater Festival, Japanese people offer prayers for their dead family and friends. In the Lesser festival, they offer prayers for having good crops. Following the prayer, the bird-scaring ritual begins.
Apart from all these New Year traditions of Japan, they also play games on the New Year eve. In fact, in some communities, it is mandatory to plat Japanese New Year games. Some traditional games are takoage, fukuwarai, sugoroku, karuta , koma, hanetsuki etc. There is also a custom of arranging entertainment shows during the New Year celebrations.
Japanese people arrange a lavish dinner for the New Year eve. The traditional Japanese New Year dinner consists of boiled seaweed, mashed sweet potato with chestnut, fish cakes, sweetened black soybeans, and simmered burdock root.