Past Hokudai/Cast Entries

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New Year's Day

New Year's Day is coming soon  and I'm looking forward to it because I can get otoshidama. Otoshidama is money children get from their grandparents and relatives every New Year's. We can also eat a special type of food called oseichi-ryori and rice cakes. Before New Year's we write nengajo (New Year's cards). We also get together with our relatives. 

History of New Year's Day
I'd like to talk about the beginning of New Year's Day in Japan and other countries. In ancient times the Japanese New Year's Day was based on the Chinese calendar and celebrated at the beginning of spring. However, in 1873 Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar and January 1st became the official New Year's Day. I researched when other countries adopted January 1st as New Year's Day. 

Venice adopted January 1st as the first day of the new year in 1552, followed by the Holy Roman Empire (parts of Austria, Germany, and Italy) in 1554. Spain and Portugal changed in 1556 while Prussia, Denmark and Sweden changed in 1559. France adopted the first in 1564 and northern Netherlands changed in 1583. In 1600, Scotland switched to January 1st. Russia changed in 1725. Finally, in 1753, Great Britain and its colonies (including the US, Australia, New Zealand) changed to the Gregorian calendar.

Celebrating New Year's Day in Japan and Other Countries
In Japan on New Year's eve we eat toshikoshi-soba, a noodle dish with long noodles. The long noodles have a connection to enjoying a long, rich life. We also look forward to watching an annual NHK singing program called the Red-White Song Competition (Kohaku). During the Red-White Song Competition, 56 singers compete for their team (red or white). 

On New Year's Day we go to a temple to pray to be happy and healthy. Shrines are also full of worshipers every New Year's Day. How do other countries celebrate New Year's Day. In Russia, the New Year's is greeted with fireworks and drinking champagne. The day is considered a family time with a lavish dinner and gifts. In South Korea, the most popular way of celebrating New Year's is to travel to Jung Dong Jin, a place on the peninsula where the sunrise  can be seen first. In the Netherlands, Denmark, and other European countries, the day is greeted with massive private fireworks. It is also the occasion to make bonfires of discarded Christmas trees. 

The Future of New Year's Day
I think traditional Japanese New Year's meals and customs will disappear. In fact, people don't write New Year's cards much anymore. In the present day, we send email instead of cards. So as not to disappear, parents and grandparents must teach their children about traditional Japanese New Year's.
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Mirai Sozo is the School of Future Learning at Hokuriku University. The primary focus is on language (English and Chinese) and management (hospital administration, sports, and business).
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