New Year’s around the World

Writer: Honoka A.
Editor: Karen W.
Translator: Theo F.

It’s December and the fall semester will soon be over; there are only a few days left in 2022. In this article, we will introduce the differences between how New Year is celebrated in Japan and abroad. A previous ToT article, ‘New Year Festivities’, can be read at the link below.

・Celebrating New Year’s in Japan

In Japan, the period from 1 to 3 January is called ‘Sanganichi’, when many shops are closed and people spend time with their families and relatives, eating delicious food. Many Japanese people go to shrines and temples at the start of the year to pray to the gods for good health and good fortune for the year ahead.

Also, as in the English ‘Happy New Year’, when the new year arrives, we say “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu” is a greeting that is used to welcome the new year. This greeting is meant to congratulate people on welcoming God and a safe new year.

In Japan, there is a kind of greeting card called ‘nengajo’, which is sent to relatives and friends, and New Year’s greetings are sent on postcards.

Osechi and ozoni are special dishes that are eaten only during the New Year. As the taste and ingredients of ozoni differ from region to region and from household to household, if you have the chance, please be sure to compare them.




・New Year’s in other countries

As cultures differ, the way in which we celebrate the new year also differs.

In the USA, there is a countdown in Times Square in New York, while in the UK, the countdown fireworks at Big Ben are famous. However, it seems that these countries only celebrate the first day of the year; people who have to work will resume working from the 2nd.

On the other hand, many countries have unique ways of celebrating. In Ecuador, there is a custom of burning one’s portrait photos on New Year’s Eve. This is meant to dispose of the past, and people collect and burn photos that symbolize the year to go. Therefore, on New Year’s Eve in Ecuador, the whole country is filled with the colour of flames.

In Vietnam, the New Year is also celebrated during the Lunar New Year (called “Tet” in Vietnamese). For this occasion, Vietnamese people decorate their houses with flowers. The flowers decorated seem to vary according to region, with pink peach flowers for those living in the north and yellow plum flowers in the south.

A staple traditional Vietnamese New Year’s dish is steamed rice with mung beans and seasoned pork on top of glutinous rice, rolled up like a sushi roll and wrapped in banana leaves, called ‘banh chung’. This is usually homemade in every household.

Furthermore, in Denmark, people throw plates at the door of their neighbours on New Year’s Day. It is believed that the families with dishes thrown at them will be blessed with happiness, and the more plates, cups and other crockery thrown at it, the luckier the family will become. It is said that a family with many broken dishes at the door of their house at New Year’s is a sign that they have that many loyal friends.

Overall, we can see how different cultures celebrate the New Year differently. Before we dive into 2023, why not meet some new people at the English Plaza or Japanese Plaza to learn about their cultures?


・New Year Greetings

In English, “Happy New Year” is said to have three different meanings. The first one roughly means “happy to see you this year”, the second one means “have a great year” and the third one means “hope you have a fun year”.

However, as mentioned at the beginning, in Japan, “Happy New Year!” has the meaning of “congratulations on welcoming God and a safe new year”. As much of Japanese culture is steeped in Buddhism, respect for the gods is embedded in the meaning of the phrase ‘Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu’. In English, “Happy New Year” has no religious meaning, so it differs from the Japanese greeting. This difference between Japanese and American New Year’s greetings suggests that the meaning may differ from culture to culture and country to country.


・”Happy New Year” in other languages

Chinese: 新年好 (Shin Nian Hao)

Korean: 새해 복 많이 받으세요

French: Bonne annee

Other countries will have different New Year’s greetings. Why not ask your friends and teachers how they say it in their countries and try to acquire a new language?


In this article, we introduced the different ways of spending New Year’s Day. How do you plan to spend New Year’s Day? I plan to spend it with my family and eat delicious food. And how about setting goals for the new year? Please let us know how you spend your New Year’s and your goals for 2023 in the comments below!

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