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In Japan New Years is called 正月oshogatsu.
Shogatsu includes the days around the New Year, especially January 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
These are some of the features of oshogatsu:
Osechiryori is traditional New Year’s food. It includes stuff like gingko nuts, chestnuts, black beans, renkon, taro.
People usually eat mochi during shogatsu. One way you can eat mochi is in zenzai or oshiruko which is mochi in anko soup. Mochi is delicious – but it can be fatal. So be careful.
鏡餅 kagami mochi
Kagami mochi is a decoration until the 11th of January. Then you can eat it.
Nengajyo are New Year’s postcards. Ideally, you send them before the end of the year and then they arrive on the 1st of January. But some people are useless, like me, and don’t get around to sending them until January the 3rd.
Official nengajyo have numbers printed on them for a competition. Last year I won these stamps. Ooo. They have dogs on them because 2006 was the year of the dog. Nengajyo usually have a picture of whatever year it is.
This year’s eto or zodiac animal is 猪 (いのししinoshishi) which is pig, wild boar in English. This is the cover of the local magazine with school kids making the character for inoshishi.
There are decorations at the supermarket, in houses, on the front of houses and shops. Most shops stay closed for a few days during shogatsu.
お正月遊び oshogatsu asobi
Back in the day kids used to play with spinning tops and kites. But they usually play different kinds of games these days.
Fukubukuro is a kind of New Year lucky dip bag.
Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the year. You can go to a shrine on New Year’s Eve and ring the bells just after midnight. Or you can go sometime in the New Year.
I recommend visiting a shrine when it’s actually open.
初 … hatsu …
The first time you do anything in the New Year – you can call it hatsu and it becomes that much more exciting. Hatsu-coffee. Hatsu-vacuuming…
Adults give children money in a pretty little envelope like this.
You can give adults money too if you like. Like me. Please give me otoshidama!