22: Culture: Happy New Year!

new year

Happy 2016, y’all!

How much trouble did everyone get into last night? 😉
Do you remember? (HA)

I had a blast with friends, dressing up all fancy and going to dinner, then the bar. It’s so cool that even though I’m so far from home, it feels like I have a little family here. ❤

Speaking of being far from home, of course Japanese New Year is different from what I grew up with. Let’s discuss!

Japanese New Year 正月 (shougatsu)

Like western countries, Japan celebrates the opening of the New Year on January 1st (元日 ganjitsu ). Japan sees the beginning of a new year as a time to start fresh with a clean slate, so most of the country is on holiday from January 29 (or 30) until January 4th in order to prepare for the coming year and spend time with family. For some people, typically working class businessmen, this is the only long holiday they will have during the year.

To minimize the work that must be done during New Year celebrations, the first few days are spent doing a thorough cleaning (大掃除 oosouji) and preparing different traditional foods (御節 osechi) to be eaten during the holiday. Homes are also decorated with traditional items such as 門松 (kadomatsu) and 鏡餅 (kagamimochi).

l-r: (kadomatsu, kagamimochi, osechi)

I won’t go into detail on what the symbolism is behind them, because I’m honestly not that familiar with it. If you’re interested, you can read all about it here or on the wikipedia links provided.

People also send out New Years postcards (kinda like my family sent out Christmas cards) called 年賀状 (nengajo) which are delivered like clockwork on January 1st. The postal service over here guarantees it.

Children receive New Year money called お年玉 (otoshidama). Seriously, they freaking bank. The could receive up to Â¥150,000 (that’s like $1,500 US). My students think it’s weird that we don’t have anything like that in the states. (HA)

l-r: (otoshidama, nengajo, nengajo)

初詣 (hatsumoude)

This literally means ‘first shrine visit of the year.’ People go to make wishes for the new year,  buy new お守り charms and return the last year’s charms to be burned by the shrine. Like I said, they mean business about the whole clean slate thing.

l-r: (omamori, (巫女) miko or shrine maidens selling omamori, more omamori)

If you go to hatsumode, it will be crazy crowded and you could be waiting a long, long time to actually get to the temple to make your offerings.

This is at Atsuta Shrine (熱田神宮 atsuta jingu) in Nagoya. See all of the people? It’s like that every year. I went my first few years in Japan, mostly because my friends were going, but it’s cold and crowded and usually we’d been out all night. I politely declined this year.

The Year of the Monkey


Japan also abides by the Chinese Zodiac, with this year being that cute little guy. You’re a Monkey if you were born between 2/16/80 and 2/4/81.
People born in the year of the Monkey are supposedly quick witted and clever. There is a nifty breakdown of  personality traits/lucky items on this page. With this being the Monkey’s year in the spotlight, I expect to see little monkeys on everything from stationary (heeee ❤ i love stationary) to t-shirts. He’s cute, so that’s totally okay with me.

Well Wishes

While it is pretty neat to live in another country and experience culture outside from the one you grew up in. I still stick to my family traditions as much as possible, though. Traditions are cool like that, yea? 🙂

I hope all of you have a wonderful and prosperous 2016. This year is YOUR time to shine! Let’s own it and make this one the best year yet!

Trish sign blog


2 thoughts on “22: Culture: Happy New Year!

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