Nengajo

By Tara Martin

During December, we learned about the Japanese new year’s card: nengajo. The custom dates back to nenshi-mawari, or new year’s visit. The visit was intended to keep good relationships in the new year. When post offices began sprouting up, sending cards became popular. Nowadays, you can buy one, send one virtually, or hand make one. They’re extremely popular, over 4 billion are sent each year! Many people still make theirs by hand with brush calligraphy, painting, stamps, and creativity.

Nengajo incorporate common symbols: the zodiac, Mount Fuji, the rising sun, tako (kites), hagoita (Japanese badminton), kadomatsu (festive decorations), and common characters. The postal service also holds a nengajo lottery (where the lottery numbers are on the cards). There’s also a specific etiquette for sending nengajo. For example, you shouldn’t send a nengajo to a family in mourning (out of compassion). The culture behind nengajo is very interesting!

 

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