元旦【New Year’s Day】

When the great holiday, New Year’s Day, arrives, I often wonder why it is the first of the year, how it was selected and even who invented the calendar. In fact, New Year’s Day was a day when people felt that things should begin.


This was due to natural happenings that impressed everyone, or religious happenings. The calendar had nothing to do with it until the Gregorian calendar was established in 1582.


From that time, and throughout the Catholic world, New Year’s Day was on the first of the year, according to the calendar. There are exceptions to every rule however, and England was a notable one. It didn’t begin using the Gregorian calendar until 1752. “Better late than never.”

グレゴリウス暦の登場によって、カトリック圏のすべての国で、暦の1月1日が新年の始まりになりました。 しかし、どんな規則にも例外はあるもので、イギリスがそうでした。イギリスは1752年になってようやくグレゴリウス暦を採用しました。「遅くともしないよりはまし」です。

In Japan, there used to be four New Year’s Days! Now, we only have three. January 1st (Oshogatsu); January 15th (Koshagatsu) which is a holiday called “Coming of Age Day” when all young people, who reached the age of 20 the previous year, are recognized as adults and honored as such in many meetings and celebrations; and early in February (Setsubun); still exist.


The fourth New Year’s Day was a special day used in the event of national catastrophes affecting Japan. It was called “Yakuyoke-shogatsu” and was last used in 1880 after a terrible plague.


Throughout history, different days have been celebrated as New Year’s Day with the winter solstice, autumnal equinox and spring equinox being popular. In former times, Christian people celebrated New Year’s Day beginning about March 25th. The Gregorian calendar is generally considered to be the rule these days and everyone uses January 1st as New Year’s Day. Farmers and fishermen still use the Lunar calendar to celebrate.

歴史的にみれば、その他いろいろな日が元日として祝われており、冬至、秋分の日、春分の日などが一般的でした。その昔のキリスト教徒たちは、3月25日ころを元日として祝っていました。 今日では、グレゴリウス暦が一般的に用いられ、だれもが1月1日を新年の始まりとしていますが、農民や漁民は祭礼には今でも太陰暦を使用しています。

In my home country, America, people attend huge parties on the night of December 31st, with much drinking and merriment. On the stroke of midnight, everyone sings “Old Lang Syne,” kisses everyone else and has a great time. The next day is a very quiet one, since most people have a bad hangover to remind them of, “The evils of drink.”


On New Year’s Day, and for several days, the Japanese wish everyone, “Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu,” which means, “Congratulations on the opening of the New Year.” In the western world, we wish people “Happy New Year” before the happy day arrives, and sometimes on that day. Happy New Year, Everyone!

元日から数日間、日本では「明けましておめでとうございます」とあいさつします。新しい年が来ておめでたいという気持ちが込められています。西洋では、新年を迎える前に「ハッピー・ニュー・イヤー(よいお年を)」とあいさつを交わします。ときには、元日に言うこともあります。 では皆さん、ハッピー・ニュー・イヤー。

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