New Year Eve is called “Oomisoka” which translates to “the Big last Day of the Year”. Even though Christmas is a big time in Japan, the real holiday for Japanese people is New Year’s Day. They celebrate it from the night of New Year’s Eve to New Year Day (around January 3rd or 4th) .
This entry will talk about December 31st, and the preparation that come with it.
Let us take a few steps backwards, to further understand all these preparation.
Oosoji – literally means – “big cleaning” – where most members of the family participate and clean their home. Windows, verandas, doors, kitchen, toilets, bedrooms – every place “wiped and washed” to welcome the new year. Oosoji is also done in offices by the employees before the year ends. Their desks and rooms are cleaned to mark a fresh start when they go back to work after the New Year holidays.
This is usually done a few days before December 31st.
Nenga-jo or New Year cards are prepared and sent out earlier to make it on time for delivery on January 1st.
After cleaning, the traditional evening meal is soba noodles called “Toshikoshi soba” which means “end the old year and enter the New Year soba noodles”. There are reasons to eat Toshikoshi soba on Oomisoka night : to bring good luck, family fortunes and longevity, since soba is easy to bite, it’s considered to forget any of hard problems or problems through the year.
In the last hours of the year, they enjoy listening the sound of Jyo Ya no Kane (Midnight tooling of the temple bells – gongs at Japanese Buddhist temples) and wait for the New Year Day. This event strikes a bell 108 times. The meaning of 108 is in Buddhism, it’s said that human being possesses 108 worldly desires, and they strike the bell 108 times in order to get rid of them. They strike 107 times in December 31st and last 1 strike on January 1st.