Japanese New Year (oshōgatsu) wishes:
- 新年おめでとう (Shinnen omedetō)
- 新年おめでとうございます (Shinnen omedetō gozaimasu)
- 新年明けましておめでとうございます (Shinnen akemashite omedetō gozaimasu)
- 明けましておめでとうございます (Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu)
- 今年もよろしくおねがいします！(kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu)
- 今年も楽しみにしています！(kotoshi mo tanoshimi ni shite imasu)
- 今年もよろしくお願いします (kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu)
- よいお年を (Yoi otoshi o)
- 謹んで新年のお喜びを申し上げます (Tsutsushinde shinnen no oyorokobi o mōshiagemasu)
- 謹賀新年 (Kinga Shinnen)
- 恭賀新年 (Kyouga Shinnen)
- 賀正 (Gashō)
- 迎春 (Geishun)
Japanese New Year
The Japanese celebrate New Year's Day on January 1 each year on the Gregorian Calendar. Before 1873, the date of the Japanese New Year (正月, shōgatsu) was based on the Chinese lunar calendar, just as the contemporary Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese New Years are celebrated to this day. However, in 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, so the first day of January is the official New Year's Day in modern Japan. It is considered by most Japanese to be one of the most important annual festivals and has been celebrated for centuries with its own unique customs.
Japanese people eat a special selection of dishes during the New Year celebration called osechi-ryōri (御節料理 or お節料理), typically shortened to osechi. This consists of boiled seaweed (昆布, kombu), fish cakes (蒲鉾, kamaboko), mashed sweet potato with chestnut (栗きんとん, kurikinton), simmered burdock root (金平牛蒡, kinpira gobo), and sweetened black soybeans (黒豆, kuromame). Many of these dishes are sweet, sour, or dried, so they can keep without refrigeration—the culinary traditions date to a time before households had refrigerators, when most stores closed for the holidays. There are many variations of osechi, and some foods eaten in one region are not eaten in other places (or are even banned) on New Year's Day. Another popular dish is ozōni (お雑煮), a soup with omochi (お餅) and other ingredients that differ based on various regions of Japan. Today, sashimi and sushi are often eaten, as well as non-Japanese foods. To let the overworked stomach rest, seven-herb rice soup (七草粥, nanakusa-gayu) is prepared on the seventh day of January, a day known as jinjitsu (人日).
At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells a 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen. A major attraction is The Watched Night bell, in Tokyo. Japanese believe that the ringing of bells can rid off their sins during the previous year
The end of December and the beginning of January are the busiest times for the Japanese post offices. The Japanese have a custom of sending New Year's Day postcards (年賀状, nengajō) to their friends and relatives, similar to the Western custom of sending Christmas cards. Their original purpose was to give your faraway friends and relatives tidings of yourself and your immediate family. In other words, this custom existed for people to tell others whom they did not often meet that they were alive and well.
Japanese people send these postcards so that they arrive on the 1st of January. The post office guarantees to deliver the greeting postcards by the first of January if they are posted within a time limit, from mid-December to near the end of the month and are marked with the word nengajo. To deliver these cards on time, the post office usually hires students part-time to help deliver the letters.
It is customary not to send these postcards when one has had a death in the family during the year. In this case, a family member sends a simple postcard to inform friends and relatives they should not send New Year's cards, out of respect for the deceased.
The postcards may have spaces for the sender to write a personal message. Blank cards are available, so people can hand-write or draw their own. Rubber stamps with conventional messages and with the annual animal are on sale at department stores and other outlets, and many people buy ink brushes for personal greetings. Special printing devices are popular, especially among people who practice crafts. Software also lets artists create their own designs and output them using their computer's color printer. Because a gregarious individual might have hundreds to write, print shops offer a wide variety of sample postcards with short messages so that the sender has only to write addresses. Even with the rise in popularity of email, the nengajō remains very popular in Japan.
Conventional nengajō greetings include:
- kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu (今年もよろしくお願いします) (I hope for your favour again in the coming year)
- (shinnen) akemashite o-medetō-gozaimasu ((新年)あけましておめでとうございます) (Happiness to you on the dawn [of a New Year])
- kinga shinnen (謹賀新年) (Happy New Year)
- shoshun (初春) (literally "early spring")