Syogatsu (New Year's Day) January 1

What's the meaning of this event?
This event is called Syogatsu in Japanese. The Japanese celebrate it for the first three days or the first week of January. Syogatsu is probably the most important holiday for the Japanese. Schools and businesses close for one to two weeks, and many people who live away from their families return home to spend this time with their families.

What do people do on this day?
Many people wear traditional Japanese-style garments, kimono, and go for the first temple or shrine visit of the New Year and pray for health and happiness in the coming. Syogatsu is also enjoyed by reading New Year's cards (instead of Christmas cards) and by children receiving New Year's gifts, which are usually cash! Also, some Japanese finish pounding mochi, sticky rice cake, by the New Year's day and enjoy eating soy-source-flavored baked mochi or stewed mochi in sweet red bean soup. This is an old custom which used to be common a couple decades ago.

Are there objects associated with this event?

A pair of kadomatsu (New Year's pine and bamboo decorations), during the New Year period, one for each side, are placed in front of the house gate. If their house is very small or they live in an apartment, they put a New Year's wreath up on the front door, or even in front of a car.

Kagami-mochi (round mirror-shaped rice cakes) is a set of two round, flat rice cakes, one large, one small, about 4-8 inches in size stacked on a stand. At New Year, they are displayed in tokonoma, a special alcove in a formal room in the house.

Osechi-ryori (New Year dishes) are special side dishes eaten on the first three days of the new year. Present-day Osechi-ryori serve two purposes; first, they are splendid to look at and serve as decorations by themselves; second, they can be prepared in advance, so housewives do not have to cook too much during the holiday.

Here is a very famous song which is related with this event. It is called "Osyoogatsu (New Year's season)." Please hear and practice it!

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Date last modified: Tuesday, 05-Mar-2002 16:50:01 EST
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