New Year celebrations know no boundaries. Though some areas celebrate on a different day than January 1st, since the 19th century many areas (including Japan) have adopted this date as auspicious.
Known as Shōgatsu (正月), New Year’s celebration in Japan resembles the U.S. in excitement and spirit. Festivities can also extend aspirations of success up through the first full-moon. Though a shared celebration across the world, the rich sense of renewal in Japan is of special inspiration.
Traditional values are given the chance to flourish. That includes the belief that New Year’s Day (sunrise to be exact) represents the essence of the entire year. Intentions are set through customary bell-ringing, offerings like Otoshidama (decorated envelopes of money), and well-wishing postcards to friends and family, sent to arrive on the first day of the year.
Japan’s cultural connection with nature also gives foundation to the renewal. New Year’s food dishes (Osechi-ryōri) are prepared for enjoyment, which also serve to symbolize how care for the (agricultural) environment is essential for society’s health.
As do popular New Year’s beverages too. Special blends of ceremonial matcha tea are prepared, as is New Year’s sake, known as ‘toso’ (a spiced and medicinal drink). These beverages rely on the cleanest environment conditions as well as astounding craftsmanship. Particularly for Shōgatsu, they encourage cerebral, lively celebration.
They help rebalance, facilitate reflection, joy, and self-care untypical of the western practices. Taken with festival foods, the exchange of goodwill offerings, and the shedding of the past year, shōgatsu ensures abundance and growth for the year to come.
The Bottom Line
Let’s try to be like Japan this New Year. Pave the way to new growth, right here from home. We can give extra effort to be mindful, set intentions, and to share in good food this holiday.
We also can create optimism, welcome change, and most of all let go of last year. Maybe best, we can revitalize and reset as we drink lots of ceremonial matcha and (moderately) other warming beverages.