As the days grow shorter and the nights turn frosty in Toronto, our thoughts turn to Christmas and other winter holidays. Taking place after the Christmas holiday festivities, the New Year is treated as a secondary holiday, an afterthought following the busy holiday season. But not in Japan. Japan, like many asian nations, celebrate the as a major holiday, while Christmas takes the secondary role as a holiday for romance similar to Valentine’s Day in the western nations.
Celebrating the New Year, or Oshougatsu (お正月) in Japan, involves many traditions leading up to and beyond New Year’s Day. While Japan originally followed the lunar calendar, in 1873 the nation adopted the Gregorian calendar and many of the Oshougatsu traditions moved from the first full moon of the lunar year (小正月, koshougatsu) to the first of January. The days leading up to Oshougatsu usually involve cleaning, cooking, visiting friends and family, and decorating the home. Arguments are settled, old debts are paid off, and the home is given a thorough cleaning. The idea is to start the new year off fresh, clean and prepared for a fortuitous year ahead.