元日(1月1日)【New Year’s Day (January 1st)】

New Year’s Day is called ganjitsu and gantan in Japanese. The word ganjitsu refers to the first day of the year. This is also the first day of shogatsu. The word shogatsu historically meant the first month of the lunar calendar. Today, however, it generally means the first three days of the year or the first week of January. The period from the first to the third of January is called sanganichi.

「元日」は、「年の初めの日」すなわち「正月の第一日」を意味し、「元旦」ともいわれています。「正月」とは、元来「太陰暦の最初の月」を意味する言葉でしたが,現在では「三箇日」といわれる1月の最初の三日間または1月の最初の一週間を指すのが一般的です。

Shogatsu is one of the most important times of the year in Japan. In Japan, people generally celebrate the New Year with their families. Schools have a two-week winter vacation that includes New Year’s Day in the middle of the vacation. Many businesses and government offices also give their employees winter holidays at this time of the year for between several days and one week. These vacations make it possible for everyone, including people who live far away, to return to their hometowns to spend the New Year.

日本では、正月は一年で最も重要な年中行事です。学校は元日をはさんで約二週間冬休みになります。会社や官公庁も、同じ時期に数日から一週間くらいの休みに入るのが普通です。日本では、家族そろって新年を迎え祝うのが普通です。普段は故郷を離れて生活している人々も、里帰りして正月を過ごします。

On the morning of New Year’s Day, family members gather together and exchange New Year’s greetings. They say, “Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu”, which means “Congratulations on the beginning of the New Year.” Then they drink toso and eat zoni for their New Year’s breakfast. On New Year’s Day, and for the following several days, people wish their family members and everyone else, “Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.”

元日の朝には、家族が集まって「明けましておめでとうございます。」と新年のあいさつを交わし、屠蘇(とそ)と雑煮(ぞうに)で新年を祝います。元日から数日間は、新しい年が来ておめでたいという気持ちを込めて、「明けましておめでとうございます」のあいさつを交わします。

It is customary for Japanese people to send New Year’s cards called nenga-jo to many people they know including relatives, friends, and business acquaintances. Most families receive many New Year’s cards on New Year’s Day, and people enjoy reading them to see how their relatives and friends are getting along. On New Year’s Day, many people also make resolutions to follow during the New Year. This is because, as a Japanese proverb says, New Year’s Day is the day to make plans for the year.

正月には、多くの知人の間で年賀状を交わします。特に元日には、何枚もの年賀状が各家庭に配達されます。届けられた年賀状を一枚一枚読みながら知人の近況を知ることは、とても楽しいものです。元日には、「一年の計は元旦にあり」ということわざにもあるように、一年の目標を定め、年頭の決意を固める人も多くいます。

In addition, people visit nearby relatives and friends to exchange New Year’s greetings. They also visit Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to pray for good luck for the New Year. The first visit after the New Year to relatives and friends is called nenshi, and the first visit after the New Year to a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple is called hatsumode. Many people climb mountains before dawn on New Year’s Day to see the first sunrise from the mountains.

この他に、正月の間には近くに住む親類や知人を訪問して新年のあいさつを交わしたり(年始)、神社や寺に初詣(はつもうで)に出かける習慣があります。また、元日の未明に初日の出を拝む人もいます。

Children also enjoy the shogatsu period. They receive New Year’s gifts called otoshidama (usually money in little envelopes) from their parents and relatives. Children play several traditional games during the shogatsu period. Boys like flying kites (takoage) and spinning tops (komamawashi), while girls love Japanese badminton (hanetsuki) and card games (karuta).

正月は、子供にとっても楽しみの多い行事です。親や親類からお年玉をもらったり、男子は凧上げ(たこあげ)・こま回し、女子は羽根突き・かるたなどの伝統的な遊びを楽しみます。

After the three-day period called sanganichi, the Feast of the Seven Herbs of Health falls on January 7th. In ancient times, these seven spring herbs were believed to be effective against all kinds of diseases. Even now, there are still some people who eat rice porridge with seven herbs on that day. The shogatsu period concludes with kagami-biraki. Kagami-biraki refers to cutting or breaking New Year’s rice cakes called kagami-mochi. This day falls on January 11th, or in some regions, on January 20th. The New Year’s rice cakes, which look like round mirrors (kagami in Japanese) and therefore are called kagami-mochi (mirror-shaped pounded rice), remain placed as offerings on the household Shinto altars (kamidana) or the alcoves (tokonomas) in each family’s home during the shogatsu period. People start to eat the New Year’s rice cakes on the day of kagami-biraki. They cook the rice cakes by cutting them up or breaking them into pieces, toasting them, and then putting them into hot sweet red bean soup called shiruko.

三箇日が過ぎた後、1月7日に七草の節句が行われます。春の七草は、かつて万病に効くと信じられていました。現在でも、この日に七草粥(ななくさがゆ)を食べる人がいます。正月は、神棚や床の間に供えられた鏡餅を割って食べる「鏡開き」によって締めくくられます。鏡開きは、1月11日または地方によっては1月20日に行われます。この日には、鏡餅を細かく切ったり割ったりして焼き、お汁粉に入れて食べます。

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