New Year in Japan – New Year’s Eve and O-Shougatsu

New Year in Japan and Poland – New Year’s Eve and O-Shougatsu

new year's eng
New Year’s Eve in Poland, and celebrating New Year in Japan.


In Poland we call New Year’s Eve – Sylwester which is a real male name. In Polish calendar everyday is devoted to a name of a different saint (Christianity), this is called imieniny, in English namesday. The last day of the December happens to be assigned to the name Sylwester – for St. Sylwester, who was a bishop of Rome in year 355.

The way we celebrate New Year’s Eve in Poland (or any other European country) is different to the way of Japanese. The night of 31st December is celebrated by having a huge party, or going to a ball. Of course we cannot forget about good, and loud music, champagne and of course fireworks.


Japanese New Year, in Japanese お正月(o-Shougatsu), is a national celebration. During the time of New Year’s celebration most of the companies are closed, and kids are having time of from school. Japanese people not only get to spend some quality time with their families, they also have a chance to sort anything that is related to the previous year and prepare to start the new year refreshed and happy.


  • Osouji (おそうじ)– it is a big clean up of the entire house, it’s role is to not only get rid of the dust but also of any unnecessary or broken things. The main purpose of osouji is to let you enter into a new year refreshed and happy.
  • After the clean up it is time for decorations: KADO-MATSU (かどまつ) – put on both sides of the house entrance or gate – to represent male and female. It is made of three bamboo shoots set at different heights. With the highest bamboo representing heavens, middle – humanity, and lowest – earth. The elements of kado-matsu are bound with a straw mat and newly woven straw rope. Kado-matsu is where Toshigami lives – deity of the year and prosperity. SHIME-NAWA (しめなわ) – meaning “enclosing rope” – it is a rice straw rope often with a pieces of twisted in a zigzag paper. Shime-nawa is hand at secret or pure places such as shrines.
  • Mochi-Tsuki (もちつき) – the preparation of mochi – traditional Japanese rice cake made out of mochigome.
  • Ozoni Soup (お雑煮) – soup eaten with mochi.
  • Toso (屠蘇)– spiced, herbal sake, drank during New Year’s celebrations to flush away previous year’s problems.
  • Nenga-Jō (年賀状 ) – New Year’s cards send/ given to family and friends.
  • Kagami Mochi (鏡餅) – traditional New Year’s decoration, made out of two mochi, with bigger one being places at the bottom, on top of this decoration sits mikan. Kagami mochi is placed on a stand called sanpō (三宝) and sheet called shihōbeni (四方紅), which is supposed to ward the house from fire for the years to come.
  • Toshikoshi Soba – soup made with soba noodles, eaten on the last day of an old year.


  • According to the tradition New Year’s Eve is supposed to be celebrated with family. Visiting shrine or watching new year’s TV shows.
  • Joya-no kane108 bell chimes – the sound of those bells is supposed to chase away the old year, purify the people and give them hope.
  • 1 January – Ganjitsu (元日) – on this day people visit shrines. Some women and girls dress in kimono.
  • O-toshidama (おとしだま) – gifts given to kids, usually some money placed in an envelope.
  • Kaki-zome (書き初め) – first calligraphy.
  • Omamori (おまもり) – Japanese charms, amulets. They can be purchased outside of the temple/shrine, their purpose is to bring luck or to protect from evil.
  • Omikuji (おみくじ) – a small piece of paper with fortune written on it. You can get them at shrines and temples all over Japan. Received by giving a small offering to the temple/shrine. If the fortune prediction turns to be bad it is custom to fold it and tie it to a pine tree or a wall of metal wires, which can be found on the shrine/temple grounds. The idea behind it comes from the similarity of pronunciation of the word pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb ‘to wait’ (待つ matsu), meaning that the bad luck is going to wait by the tree rather then attach itself to the bearer. If the fortune is good however the bearer has two options. ONE – to also attach it and by that multiply the good fortune or TWO – keep it for good luck.

    – Dai-kichi, 大吉 – Great blessing
    – Chū-kichi, 中吉 – Middle blessings
    – Shō-kichi, 小吉 – Small blessing – I had drawn this one three times out of three last year.
    – Kichi, 吉 – Blessing
    – Han-kichi, 半吉 – Half-blessing
    – Sue-kichi, 末吉 – Ending blessing
    – Sue-shō-kichi, 末小吉 – Ending small blessing
    -Kyō, 凶 – Curse
    -Shō-kyō, 小凶 – Small curse
    -Han-kyō, 半凶 – Half-curse
    -Sue-kyō, 末凶 – Ending curse
    -Dai-kyō, 大凶 – Great curse



One thought on “New Year in Japan – New Year’s Eve and O-Shougatsu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s