Japanese New Year: A Time for Family

New Year’s Celebrations, or shogatsu for New Year’s Eve and gantan for New Year’s day, are easily the biggest and most important holidays on the Japanese calendar. Oftentimes preparations for New Year’s will begin on or around Christmas Day and continue through the end of the month. In stark contrast to western traditions, New Year’s in Japan is a serious affair and considered a time for families to gather, cards and gifts to be exchanged, and ceremonial foods to be eaten.

Traditionally, New Year’s preparations start with a full deep house-cleaning. According to Shinto beliefs, a god enters each household during New Year’s, and a clean house is required as a token of welcoming. It is a common occurrence for everyone to help out with the cleaning, including the household’s children. A decorated kagami mochi is placed in the household’s shrine as a final touch.

On New Year’s Eve, once the cleaning and food preparations for