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Japan is a country that has no connection to China; however, many people in Japan do celebrate the Lunar New Year. They participate in a cultural event called ‘sekku’ or Chinese new year with their friends and family.
Japanese girls enjoy cooking red bean rice cake (taiyaki) and other delicious, unique dishes on the Lunar New Year.
They dress up their houses and gardens with kumquat trees, peach blossoms, and phoenixes with the belief that they ward off evil spirits.
In addition to celebrating Chinese new year festive events, many Japanese families also give out red envelopes filled with money during the Lunar New Year.
Unlike the Japanese celebration, the Chinese people in China and Taiwan celebrate their festival with performances such as dragon dancing, lion dancing, and yangko. They also study special wishes for the new year called ‘chunlian.’
So why do they celebrate Lunar New Year? They believe that animals represent different zodiacs, and they have chosen 12 animals as their zodiac signs. The Lunar New Year also signifies the start of a new year for people in China. When the new year comes, everyone wishes for good luck and happiness.
What is Lunar New Year called in Japan?
In Japan, the Lunar New Year is called Sekku.
Sekku means seasonal division.
The new year you celebrate is based on your zodiac sign. Japanese celebrate the lunar new year with their friends and family for 3 days and 2 nights. They eat rice cake (mochi) together and sometimes exchange a red envelope filled with money.
In Japanese tradition, people gave and received money with red envelopes called ‘hatsumoude.’ It is still done today but not as often as before. People in Japan also celebrate the Lunar new year as a family holiday. They eat rice cakes (mochi) and peach blossom-shaped cakes usually during this time.
In conclusion, Japanese people do celebrate the lunar new year with their friends and family in Japan. People in China also celebrate it with performances and studying special wishes for the new year called ‘chunlian.’
How does Japan celebrate the new year?
In Japan, the new year is an occasion for a family reunion and a day to spend time with friends.
Many people would visit temples and shrines with their families and friends after attending early morning worship services on the first day of the lunar new year. They offer prayers for good fortune in the upcoming year and peace and happiness for their families and friends.
In the evening, people usually spend time with their families at home and watch a TV program broadcast from a shrine.
After midnight, they celebrate by eating round rice cakes (mochi), which symbolize unity and happiness. It is believed that the round shape of mochi represents each family member becoming one entity.
There are many customs that people follow during this time of the year.
It is believed that every zodiac has its own breath, and it brings a different type of luck in the new year.
People usually wear clothes corresponding to their zodiacs. For example, those born under the sheep sign should wear red clothes because it is believed that red will give them good luck.
What kind of food does the Japanese eat during the new year?
In Japan, people eat red bean (azuki) rice cakes (mochi), peach blossom-shaped cakes, and round rice cakes during the new year.
There are unique dishes that people eat during this time of the year to celebrate it properly.
For example, there is a dish called ‘Toshi Koshi soba.’
On the eve of New Year’s Eve, people cook this dish and eat it before departing to a shrine or temple.
They believe that eating ‘Toshi Koshi soba’ will help them start with fresh luck for the rest of the year. If you leave some noodles in your bowl, it symbolizes leaving your troubles behind.
Mochi is a trendy dish that many people eat during this season in Japan. It is made by pounding steamed rice into a sticky paste and forming it into small round cakes.
The color of mochi varies depending on the ingredients used to make it, such as red bean or chestnut paste. This year, mochi is eaten with a sweet bean soup called ‘zoni’ and chestnut paste.
Chestnut-shaped cakes are also famous during the new year in Japan because they symbolize peaches associated with longevity. When you bite into a cake shaped like a peach, its juice gets all over your face.
It reminds the peach’s long life in Chinese legend, as the fruit will never rot and always stay fresh. The peach tree gave eternal life to anyone who ate its fruit or drank its sap.
Many Japanese people believe that eating mochi during this time of the year will help them acquire prosperity, happiness, and good health throughout the coming year.
The Japanese also celebrate with fireworks and shooting off firecrackers to bring in the new year. They believe that the loud noises from fireworks scare away evil spirits and bad luck.
It is also believed that lighting lanterns during this time symbolize driving away all darkness in life and welcoming good fortune.
What are typical Japanese games played during the new year?
There are various traditional Japanese games people play during the new year, which differ considerably by region.
Since starting anything brand new in the first days of this period is considered bad luck, some activities involve disposing or hiding things instead of creating something new.
For example, “okei-zei” is a popular game played by young girls.
In this game, they place the ‘tsukudani’ (salted and boiled fish) or other seafood in an earthenware vessel (usually around 20 to 30 cm wide), called ‘oke.’
They then take turns gently shaking the ship so that everyone can see how much the contents of the ‘oke’ have been surprised.
The girl who sees a particular object at the vessel’s bottom cries out “okane,” which means money or coins. The first one to do so grabs and keeps all of her opponents’ coins.
Another popular game played during the new year is “sakazuki-gami,” which requires two bowls and some sake. The one who suggested this game fills both bowls with sake.
Then a paper called ‘sakabayashi’ is folded into a triangle and placed in one of the bowls.
Everyone takes turns trying to pick up the sakabayashi while using only their hands and no chopsticks.
They continue to take turns picking it up until the contents of the bowl are spilled out.
The winner is the person who picks it up without spilling anything from the bowl.
Which countries celebrate the Lunar New Year?
The Lunar New Year is celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, and other Chinese zodiac countries. In Korea, it is called “seollal,” while Vietnamese people call it “tu nhi.”
Why did Japan stop celebrating Lunar New Year?
The first reason is that since Lunar New Year is celebrated on the year’s first new moon, it falls in the middle of January.
So while other countries celebrate it in January or February, Japan celebrated around two weeks after everyone else did.
The second reason is China’s invasion by Western countries and Japan over 150 years ago.
Many Chinese people were displeased with the ruling government during that time, as they felt foreigners were exploiting their country.
Because of this and many other factors, many revolts broke out in China in the late 19th century.
With unrest continuing in China, Emperor Meiji (reign 1868-1912) issued Proclamation No. 57 in 1873, which banned the celebration of Lunar New Year among Japanese people and other Chinese festivals and customs such as eating white rice on oshogatsu (New Year’s Day). T
his was done to prevent the spread of anti-government feelings stemming from China.
Nowadays, celebrating Lunar New Year is becoming more popular among Japanese people.
Many younger generations are interested in experiencing the festivities of foreign cultures, which is why Lunar New Year is becoming more and more recognized in Japan.