The Rich Japanese Culture of Exchanging New Year’s Cards and Gifting Kids Money

Ending the old year and starting the new year is done with much intention here in Japan. Traditionally, houses are deep cleaned as the old year ends. There are many end of year parties for both formal and casual groups. It is also a time when many people have a good break from work which runs from around December 30th – January 4th, to be with family and friends, where they engage in many important cultural practices. The pandemic did put a damper on some of this, especially where travelling back to visit relatives was concerned.

Many people still exchanged New Year greeting cards (nengajo), which is one aspect of the traditional cultural practice here. I so love this. I especially love getting cards where families take time to make a collage of pictures and arrange these on the cards. The warm messages and these pictures with New Year greetings always make me smile. I love the fact that these are hard copies. Not everyone will give out cards of course but many still do. I have been told for example, if a family experienced a death they do not give out cards that year. Recipients of course know and understand this.

In the same way that many people send out Christmas cards, these cards are sent to loved ones, coworkers and those who one may have business dealings with. These are postcards that one buys at the post office. They can be decorated as one desires or a choice can be made from those on offer by the post office. The cost of these add up, so it is always nice to get them from people in my life. I got one in my mailbox today, hence this post. The picture above shows three cards on top of each other, to give an idea of how they look without giving away private info.

Another real, great cultural practice here is giving kids gift money (otoshidama) during the New Year’s celebration. Relatives of children will get different amounts of money to them. Some of my students over the years have shared how much they have gotten. It can often be a nice amount. Many parents often deposit this into the children’s savings account so that it mounts for college and other important things for the kids. I, oh so love how excitedly my students talk about their gift money. I also like that many of them start learning the importance of saving because they know their parents put this money away.

Have a great 2021 and hoping we can all stay save and well in a respects.

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