What do you usually do on New Year's Eve? Does your family have something special to do for the New Year? Maybe you have a party at the bar or your friend's house, or you may spend time with your family. In Japan, the way of spending time on New Year's Eve is pretty different from the American way.
In the morning, we Japanese people clean the whole house. This process is called Ousouji in Japan. This doesn't mean that Japanese people clean the house only once a year. There is a special meaning for this cleaning. Its purpose is to welcome the New Year and to wish a better life than the former year. Cleaning the house, which is covered with annual dust, is a really important way to start a new year.
After finishing Ousouji, women start cooking Osechi. This is a traditional Japanese dish which is eaten a few days after the New Year. The dish is based on fish, beans, and egg. We eat Osechi because there is an old story saying one shouldn't use a cooking knife within three days from the New Year. This gives a break to the mother who cooks every day.
While women are cooking Osechi, men are hanging Shimenawa, which is a kind of decoration made from rice stems. It is hung on the front door. This custom comes from the farmer's wish to have a good harvest next year. Today, we wish for good fortune and a good year.
Evening time, after we finish preparing for New Year's, we normally watch a TV program called Singing Battle Between the Red and the White Team. It has been on the air for about 50 years and keeps over 50 percent of the audience's ratings every year. We think about this program as a part of a closing moment of the year.
While, or after watching singing battle, we eat Toshikoshi Soba, which means "New Year's Eve Noodle" in English. As you know, the noodle is long, so we wish longer life, including healthy body, by eating Toshikoshi Soba.
Finally, the last thing to do for New Year's Eve is to listen to Juya No Kane, which means "the watch-night bell" in English. This bell is like a countdown in America. But we ring it 108 times. This tradition comes from the thought of Buddhism. The idea of this tradition is to hit away poorness, doubt, selfishness, unhappiness, and so on.
In conclusion, Japanese New Year's Eve starts from cleaning house, cooking Osechi, putting Shimenawa, watching singing battle, eating noodle, and ends up with listening to the Juya No Kane. If we don't do these things, we feel like we can't celebrate the New Year. New Year's Eve is a very important moment for Japanese people not only to prepare for the New Year, but also to look back upon our life from the past year.
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