Traditional New Year in Japan is a quiet holiday for family gatherings. Many businesses close between 30th December and 3rd January as it is thought that no work should be done around the New Year.
Toshikoshi soba (noodles) must be eaten on New Year’s Eve before midnight. Some say that we eat soba because soba are easily cut while eating and is a symbolism for “letting go of hardship of the year”. There are, however, other theories saying that long soba signify a long life and happiness.
Visiting shrines and temples:
After midnight, you can visit a shrine or a temple to make a wish for the New Year such as praying for safety, health and good fortune. You do not have to go on 1st January; you should, however, go sometime in the first seven days of the New Year. Some popular temples or shrines will be extremely busy in the first few days. For example, more than 3 million people visit Meiji Shrine in Tokyo in the first three days of the year.
New Year’s Cards:
Just like Christmas cards, it is a tradition to send New Year’s Cards to your relatives, friends and co-workers. These are special post cards and different designs can be found at places such as convenience stores and stationary stores. If you post them between 15th and 25th December, it is guaranteed to be delivered on 1st January.
Typically, adults give money to children during New Year’s celebrations. According to a survey, many people around the age of 16 are lucky enough to receive roughly £70 from their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives, which means they might end up receiving £280!
Although most Japanese people don’t go to parties on New Year’s Eve, there are many parties held during the months of December and January. In December, they are called bounenkai (“year forgetting parties”) and in January, they are just known as New Year’s Parties. These parties generally consist of drinking lots of alcohol, eating and playing games (such as bingo) with prizes.