Oshōgatsu - New Year Celebration

The Japanese New Year "Oshogatsu" is a very famous festival with its own traditional perspective. Since 1873, the official Japanese New Year has been celebrated on January 1 of each year. This article will give you an idea about how they celebrate this new year as a festival.

New Year Celebration

This is the annual festival in japan. It has its own custom. According to the Gregorian calendar, on 1st January of each year, the official Japanese New Year has been celebrated since 1873.Celebrations in Japan are quite different from the western ones. In Japan New Year is largely a quiet, solemn, family affair. It’s not always marked by noisy reveling, fireworks, or countdown parties, though those can be found. Celebrations extended until 3rd January. Most of the Japanese people prefer to celebrate New Year with their families. People get few days off for nenmatsu that is “End of the year” and “Beginning of the year”. On the first day of the year some traditional events of the Japanese New Year also celebrated partially. It’s a great time to visit Japan during the New Year. There are two different words to describe New Year celebration in Japan. In Japan New Year celebration is called as shogatsu, and New Year's Day is called gantan. In Japan 1st Jan is the national holiday. It is not just another holiday in Japan. It is considered the most important holiday. In Japan, it is customary to say "akemashite- omedetou- gozaimasu," or "Happy New Year" to each other. In New Year celebration food plays an important role. Japanese people eat special dishes on this occasion called osechi ryori during shogatsu. It has several layers. And packed in Jubako box. Every dish has a particular meaning. During the New Year celebration, it is also tradition to eat mochi (rice dishes). The most popular mochi dish is Zouni (rice cake soup). Depending on regions and families the ingredients vary. In Japan from 1st January to 3rd January, most of the businesses shut down, and families gather and spend the days together. Many restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets, and department stores have remained open during New Year's holidays in recent years. By the end of the year, all duties are supposed to be completed. And the bonenkai parties (“year forgetting parties”) are held to leave the old year’s worries and troubles behind.

 On the occasion of New Year, all the homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees, and clothes and houses are cleaned. In the evening, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles), are served. It is a symbol of longevity. One of the customs is to watch the music show "kohaku uta gassen". It is a very popular television program which featured out Japan’s most famous J-pop and enka singers in spectacular performances. The day started best by viewing the New Year’s first sunrise. It is a very auspicious day. And for the whole year that has just commenced, traditionally believed to be representative. The day should enjoy with full of joy and it should be stress and anger free. On this day everyone visits to a shrine or temple, it is a tradition. There are few games played on New Year, but in recent times their popularity has decreased. Some of the games which played on New Year’s occasion are Hanetsuki (Japanese badminton), takoage (kite flying), and karuta (a card game). There is a custom to send New Year’s card. In Japan, there is a tradition of handing some money to the children in an envelope. It’s not too much but something that many kids in japan look forward to. On New Year there is another tradition to go out and buy fukubukuro. These are the surprise bags that sell at different points by many retailers. People buy it without knowing what is inside. The collective retail value of the inside items are worth more than what the bag was bought for, but the risky part is you don’t know what is inside. It is the most popular tradition in Japan. As many people are waiting to buy one, these bags sell out fast. One more tradition in japan is Hatsumode. Japanese New Year is filled with festivities and traditions. A kami (God) enters the house at New Year’s, according to the Shinto It is Japan’s indigenous religion. 

On 25th December all schools are closed in Japan. This is not because of Christmas but because this was an intense stage of preparations for New Year's for everyone, even children. The most enjoyable thing about these preparations was to go to a big year-end market to buy food, decorations toys for children. December ending and the starting of January are the busiest times for the Japanese post offices. As Japanese people send cards to friends and relatives. All these customs can vary region to region and household to household. People hang Shimekazari above doors, this is to invite welcome gods of good fortune and ward off evil spirits. It consists of shimenawa (a sacred straw rope), pine, and bitter orange which is a symbol of posterity, among others. Some temples ring a large bell 108 times. It is a part of a ritual called joya no kane. This is because in Buddhism 108 is the number of earthy desires which cause humans sufferings. And this ritual is supposed to purify human's min’ and souls for the year ahead. In recent years on the Evening of New Year crowds have been gathering at Shibuya Crossing.

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