O Japanese New Year (shōgatsu) is one of Japan's most important annual festivals with its own customs, combining traditions and customs expressing gratitude for the past year and ensuring health and prosperity in the coming months. The commemoration begins on New Year's Eve. At midnight on 31 in December families eat pasta (which represents long life) and then go to some local temple or shrine to pray for good luck in the coming year. Prior to 1873, the date of the Japanese New Year was based on the Chinese lunar calendar, as well as Chinese New Year, Korean and Vietnamese New Year, and 1873 the official Japanese New Year began to be celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar, in January 1 of each year (元日 Ganjitsu - New Year's Day).
The season shōgatsu goes to January 7 or January 15 in some regions. While the first day (New Year) or ganjitsu, is the only date recognized as a national holiday, government offices and many companies close their doors from 29 from December to 3 from January.
Many people travel to their hometowns. It is also time for people to show a more traditional side by dressing kimono, although this custom has begun to decline in recent years. Children enjoy games and small gifts known as otoshidama, while adults appreciate the opportunity to take a break from the daily grind.
Families traditionally begin preparing for the arrival of the toshigamis (New Year's gods) before ōmisoka (the last day of the year), cleaning houses, preparing holiday dishes with seasonal decorations such as kadomatsu (shinekazari) and kagami mochi (Rice cakes). They also decorate the house, business, commerce and even their kamidanas (small domestic shrines), with shimenawas, Kadomatsus and shimekazaris. As well as writing wishes on Emas (wooden plates with thanks and wishes written on the back) and Nengajō postcards, so that they can be delivered on 1 January day.
Greetings are an important aspect of shōgatsu. The first act after the clock strikes midnight on New Year's morning is to address family members with the traditional greeting akemashite omedetō gozaimasu.
At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples throughout Japan ring their bells a total of 108 times to symbolize 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of 108 worldly desires for the senses and feelings in all Japanese citizens.
- Traditional food
The Japanese eat a special selection of dishes during the New Year celebration called osechi-ryōri, usually shortened to osechi. This consists of cooked seaweed, fish cakes, mashed sweet potato with chestnut, boiled burdock root and sugary black soy. Many of these dishes are sweet, sour or dry so that they can run out of refrigeration, culinary traditions date back to before families had refrigerators when most stores closed for vacation. There are many variations of osechi, and some foods consumed in one region are not consumed elsewhere on New Year's Day. Another popular dish is ozōni, a soup with omochi and other ingredients that differ based on various regions of Japan. Today, sashimi and sushi are often consumed as well as non-Japanese foods.
Another custom is to create rice cakes (Mochi). The cooked rice is made in a Japanese pestle with the help of a wooden hammer. One person knocks while another squirts a little water in the intervals between the beats, this is done so the rice does not stick to the stick or the pestle. Beat several times until the rice is in the right spot, a smooth, firm mass. And the Mashing a rice in the form of a sticky white cookie. This is done before New Year's Day and eaten during the beginning of the month of January.
Also at the end of the year the Kagami Mochi, formed of two round buns of mochi with a bitter orange placed on top. The daidai name must be auspicious, for it means "several generations."
Because of the extremely sticky texture of the mochi, there are usually a small number of choking deaths around the New Year in Japan, particularly among the elderly. The death toll is reported in the newspapers in the days after the New Year.