The beginning of the New Year, oshogatsu, is one of the most important annual holidays for Japanese people. During oshogatsu, family members go back to their hometown and relatives gather together to celebrate the New Year. We prepare osechi-ryori ― food that is beautifully arranged in three lacquerware boxes and eaten on the first three days of the year. Osechi is an array of preserved food, the names of which signify good wishes for the family's health and prosperity. However, these days some people don't prepare these dishes at all or prepare them for just a day or so. There are many traditional customs we perform during oshogatsu. The easiest way to explain them may be by taking a look at a typical event schedule.
１月１日 元日 January 1st－ ganjitsu, New Year's Day
January 1st is a national holiday. People make their first visit of the year to shrines, and visit their relatives to exchange customary New Year's greetings. Many people put on kimono to go out. Family members get together and play games, such as sugoroku, board games, the make-a-face-game known as fukuwarai, and so on. In the past, people used to enjoy paper craft games and hanetsuki, a game like badminton where two people hit a tiny ball with a small wooden bat. However, nowadays it seems like computer console games are more popular. Usually people receive nenga-jyo, special New Year's greeting postcards, on this day, too.
１月２日 書き初め January 2nd － kakizome, writing the first calligraphy of the year
Kakizome is an event where the first calligraphy of the year is written with a brush, while facing an auspicious direction, and is usually held on January 2nd. Japanese people write their New Year's resolution, or a Chinese character that makes them feel happy, such as “dream,”“hope” and so on.
１月１日～３日 三が日 From January 1st to 3rd－ sanganichi, the first three days of the New Year
１月７日 七草粥 January 7th － nanakusa-gayu, eating porridge with seven herbs
People eat rice porridge prepared with the seven herbs of spring. They wish for good health throughout the year and, having previously eaten too much osechi and too many rice cakes, give their stomach a rest at the same time.
１月11日 鏡割り January 11th － kagamiwari, putting away the decorated rice cakes
People are definitely getting out of the mood of oshogatsu by mid-January. They take down the round rice cakes used for New Year's displays and eat them, typically dipping them in sweet aduki bean soup or something similar. (Actually, the rice cake has often already gone moldy by this time.)
Oshogatsu is one of the most important events of the year for Japanese people. During
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