Scenery from December to New Year’s Day


December is called Junigatsu in Japanese, which means the twelfth month of the year. It is also called Shewasu, a Japanese traditional expression for December. The words mean the month in which priests are busy, running from a house to another in order to hold a Buddhism ceremony in a hurry. Anyway it is the month when everybody certainly feels somewhat busy.

In my opinion, the reason of Japanese being especially busy in this period is that they begin to prepare for New Year’s Day, soon after Christmas.The period for preparation is very short. It’s only a week. I don’t have the exact data but in Japan the number of Christians are not so large. It may be a few percent of the population. However the Christmas is very popular here, as the event that everybody enjoys. Many Japanese are looking forward to Christmas and celebrating the eve and the Christmas day. Not necessarily by religious meaning, Japanese enjoy gorgeous and joyful atmosphere of Christmas period. For example, everybody likes watching Christmas illumination decorating the streets, having the very fine dinner, and exchanging presents with somebody.


But soon after Christmas, the mind of people is changing very fast to prepare for the New Year’s Day. This change of the things and alternation of mind of people in the short period is, in a sense, wonderful.

In the summertime, Japanese have many occasions of a display of fireworks. People wear yukata (kimono, or Japanese clothes for summer) and go out to see it. In autumn, Halloween is celebrated flourishingly. People wear various costumes, pouring into the streets recently. Then, Christmas comes afterwards. The interval between them are about two months. But the period between Christmas and the New Year’s Day is too short compared with other events from summer to winter.

Anyway people are busy preparing for the New Year in their homes and work places up to the eve of the New Year’s Day. What they prepare are the ornament of New Year’s pine decorations(Matsukazari), round mirror-shaped rice-cakes(Kagamimochi), New Year dishes, New Year’s cards, etc.

And the expectation for the New Year’s Day swells more and more in the short period.The upsurge of expectation on New Year’s Eve may possibly be bigger than on the New Year’s Day itself. And when the New Year’s Day comes, excitement which surrounds people turns calm and solemn all over a sudden. This flow of process repeated every year might be the undiscovered Japan.



( Note)

By the way, in order to send the New Year’s cards just in time on the 1st January, they must be posted by around the 25th December. But many of my friends write the cards and send them after the date.

Writing cards in a hurry might be another approach run to the New Year’s Day. Many Japanese people repeat sending the New Year’s card every year, because they have to answer someone who gives them the card neatly on the New Year’s Day. As a result, it happens that correspondence between them has not been cut off for decades fortunately.