Happy New Year 2018! – NY Vocabulary and Customs

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Happy New Year 2018! Finally, it is upon us, the new year has come upon us. Perhaps, you have probably returned to your workplace for the new year. If so, don’t fret we’re here to help you get through some of the New Year related terms.

1. お正月

お正月 (おしょうがつ or Oshougatsu) refers to the new year period at the calendar year end. More specifically, it means the festival that occurs on the first couple days of January. At this time, most businesses close, and people take a break from their stressful jobs. Japanese mostly spend this time with their families, generally heading back to their hometown. There they will spend time with their families, saying farewell to the current year and welcoming in a fresh new year.

On the 31st of December, it is common for many to enjoy 年越しそば (としこしそば or Toshi Koshi Soba) basically Japanese buckwheat noodles. This allows people to farewell any of the negativity and grudges held from the previous year. So, they do this by making soba their last meal, a symbol of saying ‘Sayonara’ to their past grievances.

On 元旦 (がんたん or Gantan) or the 1st of January, the following day, families will then welcome in the new year with a variety of activities. This includes the New Year’s meal of お節 (おせち or Osechi), a variety of meals (such as seafood, vegetables, rice cakes and more). They are typically packed in special boxes, similar to お弁当 (おべんとう or Obento) meaning ‘lunch’ boxes. The meals generally represent people’s hope of blessings, good fortune and long health. However, there are many kinds of meals that people eat on this day, which have a variety of different meanings.

2. 戌年

戌年 (いぬどし or inu doshi) literally means the ‘Year of the Dog’ and is this year’s representative of the Zodiac calendar. The Zodiac calendar has a regular cycle and rotates every 12 years. It starts from February in the current year to February the following year.  People who fall into the year of the dog are born in a range of years. These include 1922-23, 1934-35, 1946-47, 1958-59, 1970-71, 1982-83, 1994-95, 2006-7, 2018-19, 2030-31, etc.

According to Chinese Zodiac horoscopes (and we treat this as pure speculation), those who fit the ‘Year of the Dog’ years should be prepared for 2018. While they may be presented with many opportunities, they will also encounter a few challenges too. However, once the obstacles are overcome, you should find a smoother ride ahead. In contrast, we hope it is smooth sailing for all of you from January!

3. 初詣

初詣 (はつもうで or Hatsumoude) refers to a person’s first visit to either a お寺 (おてら or Otera) meaning ‘Temple’ or 神社 (じんじゃ or Jinjya) meaning ‘Shrine’. On one of the first few days in January, many visit a temple or shrine. As the Japanese tradition goes, they visit these sacred places of worship to pray for good fortune and health throughout the year. People usually make a small coin donation too, for example, 5 yen or 50 yen. After following a few simple steps, people pray to the gods in hope of having their wishes granted.

4. 新年抱負

新年抱負 (しんねんほうふ or Shinnen Houfu) is literally translated into ‘New Year’s Resolution’. Across many cultures, people use the new year as an opportunity to make some kind of improvement or positive change in their life. Naturally, the biggest difficulty with making any significant change is sticking to it. If you can truly maintain your motivation then hopefully you can also make a positive long-term improvement. Best of luck!

5. 新年会

新年会 (しんねんかい or Shinnenkai) is the term used to describe ‘New Year Parties’. These are quite popular events in Japan, especially in the corporate world. They generally occur in January of each year and are designed to welcome in the new year with colleagues or even new or existing contacts. They are very similar to 忘年会 (ぼうねんかい or bounenkai) which are ‘End of Year Parties’ that occur in December.

6. お年玉

お年玉 (おとしだま or Otoshi Dama) is the Japanese custom occurring on January 1, New Year’s day. On this day, parents will give money to their children. The gift is usually presented to each child in a brightly decorated or red coloured envelope. The amount of money the parents give usually depends on the age of the child. Yet, it is not uncommon to see amounts of 10,000 yen or more handed out. Hopefully, you too were also lucky enough to get some kind of financial reward (as pictured below).

We wish you all the best of luck for the future year, from everyone at FAQ!

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