People clean their homes to prepare for the holiday and, as night falls on New Year’s Eve, the temple bells start to toll. The normally hectic pace of life in the big cities slows as people prepare to spend three days with family and friends.
Instead of Christmas cards, the Japanese exchange greeting cards at the New Year and they all arrive together on New Year’s Day, so you get a deluge of greetings from people who are important to you.
There are all sorts of special foods for New Year’s (mostly cold so that cooks are not tied to the kitchen.) My favorite, “omochi” – a pounded rice slab, is wrapped in seaweed, grilled until it becomes soft and bubbly and is covered in soy sauce before being eaten. [Just writing this is making my mouth water!]
Everyone greets each other with “Akemashite. Omeideitoo Gozaimasu!” which, roughly translated, means, “It has begun. Congratulations.”
And so as 2013 begins, I offer you my congratulations and prayers that we are all in for a banner year. Banzai!