I will explain a traditional Japanese New Year. Nowadays, although young people go somewhere with their friends during the long New Year holidays, many families still enjoy it with families and relatives. So, at the very end of the old year and the beginning of the new year, it is very crowed in trains, in airplanes, and on highways as we gather with families.
I think I can say that our New Year celebration begins on December 31st because we enjoy talking , watching TV, and eating soba which is a Japanese noodle eaten that night. The reason why we eat sobasoba.
Just at midnight, some famous temples ring 108 sounds with a temple bell. This meaning is from a traditional legend. It says that there are 108 desires regarding sense, feeling, and time in every person. In order to erase these desires, we ring 108 sounds because people used to believe that these sounds were effective for them.
On the morning of New Year’s Day, we drink spiced Japanese sake to celebrate. We pour a little of this sake into traditional Japanese ceramic cups, then drink it in the order of age in the family. We drink three mouthfuls. After that, we eat traditional foods. We usually eat rice cake in Japanese soup called Zouni which has many vegetables in it. Also we eat many kinds of foods that are packaged in beautiful boxes which usually have triple layers.
Also, we go to a temple to make wishes although many people don’t have religion. I think it might be a kind of custom. These wishes depend on the person, but usually we wish for health, happiness, and peace.
It is a special day for children because they can receive some money in special envelopes from their relatives for New Year’s presents. They can buy something they like with this money.
We also receive greetings cards. Usually we write and send greeting cards to our friends in December, and the post office staffs strive to put these cards in our boxes on January 1st. So, even though postal workers are extremely busy during this time, families can enjoy these greeting cards thanks to them.
I think a happy New Year is for the Japanese like Christmas is for Americans. In order to enjoy it, our December is really busy. We clean our house, cook for the holiday, write greeting cards, and go shopping. Also, we enjoy celebrating Christmas as Western people do, so every end of the year, we feel really hurried.
The traditional Japanese New Year celebration is being celebrated less and gradually becoming simpler like everything is changing over the generations, but it is still dear to us. We are trying to keep initiating it into each new generation because it has always been one of the most important events for Japanese.