Do you have any special New Year’s rituals or activities? Maybe there’s something particular you like to eat or you’re receiving money as a gift from your relatives? Perhaps, special New Year’s greetings too?
Well, in Japan, New Year is full of unique customs. It is an important time of the year, which is traditionally spent with family. Read on to find out everything about the country’s unique end-of-year customs and learn some special New Year’s greetings.
干支 (eto) – Chinese Zodiac
Originating in China, the Zodiac is made up of 12 animals, each corresponding to a particular year in a 12-year cycle. This year (2017) was the year of the rooster and 2018 will be the year of the dog. With the Zodiac very popular in Japan, you’ll see dogs all over the place this year!
良いお年を (yoiotoshiwo) – Have a nice year
Literal translation: Nice year
It may sound slightly strange in English, but this phrase is used widely between late-December and the 31st among family, friends and coworkers. In addition, it’s actually a shortened version of 良いお年をお過ごしください (Please have a nice [rest of the] year).
新年明けましておめでとうございます (shinnnennakemashiteomedetougozaimasu) – Happy New Year
Literal translation: new year start congratulations
The polite way of saying Happy New Year in Japan. However, you might hear people leave out the word 新年 (shinnnenn) and just say あけましておめでとうございます, あけましておめでとう to be less formal, or あけおめ to be extremely casual.
年賀状 (nenngajou) – New Year’s Card
Japanese people typically send special New Year’s postcards to friends, family and coworkers. Card designs usually connect with the Chinese Zodiac, so expect a lot of dog-themed cards for 2018!
Inside, people will usually write a few words to thank the person and to ask them for their continued friendship in the coming year. Some people will also give little updates about themselves and their families, along with a family photo.
The Japanese mail service guarantees that all New Year’s cards will arrive at their destination by the 1st of January, as long as the senders post them by the 28th of January. Buy one from the post office itself and you’ll even be in with a chance of winning a cash prize, as each comes with its own lottery number. Maybe 2018 will be your lucky year?
お年玉 (otoshidama) – money pockets
Japanese children and young adults traditionally receive cash from their older relatives at New Year. Unfortunately, everybody has to grow up (boo!) and most people stop getting the money when they hit 20, or when they start working and earning money. After that, it’s their turn to start spoiling the little ones!