New Year's Customs（正月の伝統）
Everyone knows that, in the UK and America, Christmas is the main holiday of the winter season. This goes back to the time when most of the Western world was Christian (at least theoretically), and Christmas was invented as a holiday in which to celebrate Jesus' coming to Earth as a man. However, in Japan, Christmas was not celebrated until recently (post-war, I believe). The fact that there is only a tiny percentage of Christians present in Japan (2%), coupled with the previous statement, means that instead of Christmas, New Year's is the main event.
Here, I've decided to post some traditions and customs that take place in Japan over the New Year period. They're in chronological order, so to speak.
- 年賀状 (nengajou) - New Year's postcards. They are sent to all relatives, friends and acquaintances with wishes for a good new year. If posted between Dec 15 and 25, and marked with the word nengajou, the post office will deliver them on Jan 1.
- 年越しそば (toshikoshi soba) – buckwheat noodles eaten just before midnight on Dec 31. Made extra long to symbolise longevity.
- 紅白歌合戦 (Kouhaku Uta Gassen) – a singing competition on every New Year's Eve on the NHK. It features the white team, made up of male singers, and the red team, made up of female singers. It has become a popular custom to watch this on Dec 24. This last New Year's Eve was the 59th showing.
- 御節料理 (osechi ryouri) – food eaten at New Year's (over the 3-day period). Can be bought in department stores or home-made. Preserved with salt and sugar. Food items symbolise different hopes for the New Year.
- 雑煮 (zouni) - a soup made with certain ingredients, eaten on the morning of Jan 1.
- 七草粥 (nanakusa-gayu) = "seven herb rice porridge" eaten on Jan 7, Jinjitsu (Human Day). Said to help soothe the stomach after a period of heavily eating osechi ryouri.
Now, off to finish French homework... which is what I should have been doing instead of broadening your intellectual horizons with this post.