Happy New Year 2018! Finally, it is upon us, and especially if you’re reading this (in Japan), then you have probably returned to your workplace for the new year. So, what does 2018 mean for you ? perhaps you find significance in 2018’s 戌年 (いぬどし or Inu Doshi) or you completed your 初詣 (はつもうで or Hatsumoude) while visiting your favourite お寺 (おてら or Otera) or 神社 (じんじゃ or Jinjya), maybe it is your chance to fulfill that looming 新年抱負 (しんねんほうふ or Shinnenhoufu) or you could be looking forward to the month’s 新年会 (しんねんかい or Shinenkai), and your children might have already spent their お年玉 (おとしだま or Otoshidama). Whichever way you welcomed the new year in, let’s bring some greater context to these Japanese concepts that occur during お正月(おしょうがつ or Oshougatsu) to give them more life and meaning.
1. お正月 (おしょうがつ or Oshougatsu) refers to the new year period, or more specifically the festival that occurs on the first couple days of the January, usually when most businesses close, and people take a break from their stressful jobs. Japanese mostly spend this time with their families, together as they see off 2017, and welcoming in a fresh new year.
As part of the New Year’s festivities, it is common for many to enjoy 年越しそば (としこしそば or Toshi Koshi Soba) or Japanese buckwheat noodles on the 31st of December. This allows people to farewell any of the negativity and grudges held from the previous year, as the last meal of the year. On the following day, 1st of January, families will then welcome in the new year with a variety of activities, including 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), served in specially packed boxes, very similar to bento boxes that you may have seen before in Japan. There are many kinds of meals with varying reasons, but usually, the meals are a sign for people to welcome in the new year and be blessed with good fortune and health as they see in the new year.
2. 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, usually starting from February in the current year to February the following year. People who fall into the year of the dog are born in the following ranges, including: 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 into the ‘Year of the Dog’ cycle may not only be presented with many opportunities but also a few challenges too. However, once the obstacles are overcome, you should find a smoother ride ahead. However, we hope it is smooth sailing for all of you from January!
3. 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 the first of January or the first day of the incoming year. As the Japanese tradition goes, many visit these sacred places of worship to pray for good fortune and health throughout the year. People usually make a small coin donation, and then follow a few simple steps in hope of having their wishes granted from the heavens.
4. 新年抱負 (しんねんほうふ or Shinnen Houfu) is literally translated as ‘New Year’s Resolution’, and is a person’s opportunity to make some kind of improvement or positive change in their life. However, the biggest difficulty with any change is sticking to it, and so if you can keep at it and maintain that motivation to make a positive improvement, then you truly are a winner. Best of luck!
新年会 (しんねんかい or Shinnenkai) is the term used to describe ‘New Year Parties’, which are surprisingly quite a popular event in Japan. Occurring in January of each year, they are designed to welcome in the new year with colleagues or even a common way to meet with new or existing contacts. It is very similar to 忘年会 (ぼうねんかい or bounenkai) which are ‘End of Year Parties’ that occur regularly in December.
お年玉 (おとしだま or Otoshi Dama) is the Japanese custom occurring on new years day )Jan 1), when parents 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, but it is not uncommon to see amounts of 10,000 yen or more handed out. Hopefully, you too were also lucky enough to get 20,000 yen (as pictured below) or more this year! Happy New Year from FAQ!