by Marina Hara Staff Writer
Japanese people celebrate the New Year from January 1 to 3. It is the biggest event for Japanese families to gather and spend time together, like Christmas or Thanksgiving for American people.
During the New Year Japanese families have a number of traditional dishes and ceremonies that are used to signify the holiday.
On New Year’s Day, they traditionally eat a series of foods in special boxes called Osech, that contains a variety of foods are intended to give people a better life. For example, they put shrimp in the box and eat it to hoping for a longer life, because the shape of shrimps looks like an old person bending the spine. The number of the foods in the Osech must be an odd number because an even number can be divided by two, so it is considered a bad omen in a Japanese family.
A soup with rice cake and vegetables is also served on New Year’s Day. The way they cook the soup differs from western and eastern Japan. They also drink New Year’s special sake “toso” to purify evil spirits and wish for a longer life.
People go to the Shrine to wish for the happiness in the New Year. They can draw a written fortune, or write a wish on a board in the Shrine.
The most exciting event for younger Japanese people is to get Otoshidama, which is money given to them by their family. Another tradition of New Year is receiving greeting cards from others; Japanese people usually write different cards for different families to celebrate the New Year.
New Year is said to be the oldest event in Japan. The tradition has been carried on for generations. However, the number of people who celebrate the traditional New Year is getting lower because it is troublesome for them to follow all the traditional customs. The number of people wearing kimonos(a traditional Japanese outfit), going to the Shrine, and eating traditional New Year foods are getting lower and lower every year. Their tradition is special and it has been in existence for thousands of years. Japanese people should learn more about their traditions and cultures and realize how beautiful and historical they are, so they can be proud of having an identity of being “Japanese.”