Japanese New Year: January 1st through January 3rd

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The Japanese New Year, shogatsu, spans several days from December 31st to January 3rd. It is the most important holiday of the year in Japan. While the New Year was originally based on the Chinese lunar calendar, in 1873, it changed to the Gregorian calendar.
To prepare for the New Year, people clean their houses and decorate. Kadomatsu are a common decoration made from bamboo, pine branches and strips of folded white paper.

During the New Year, people spend time at home with their families eating traditional foods like osechi ryori and ozoni, and playing games. Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, they watch temple ceremonies on television or frequent their local temple where a huge gong is stuck 108 times to wipe away the 108 sins of the past year.
Most people visit a shrine or temple on January 1st, which is more a custom than religious tradition. The rest of the time is spent with family. Children are usually given envelopes with money and as a result, this is the busiest time of year for toy stores. Popular children’s games are flying kites and fukuwarai.
For further details on the Japanese New Year, you can read our writer Doug McLean’s latest article in the Religious Life of Children column on the tradition.

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