Time to start writing Japanese “Nengajo” New Year Cards
Most Japanese people are busy writing New Year greeting cards to family, friends, acquaintances and business associates in December.
The cards are called “nengajo” in Japanese. The custom started in the Nara period (710 – 794 A.D.), and along with a New Year’s message, we let the recipients know how we have been doing and express our thanks for the last year. Some of the cards have picture of the zodiac sign of the year, sunrise or Mt. Fuji printed on them. Families with young children often send New Year’s Cards that display a family photo or picture of their children.
A long time ago, Japanese had a custom called “Greeting for the New Year”（年始のあいさつ回り）, when people visited elderly people’s houses to greet and celebrate. However, people having ever widening circle of friends, they couldn’t go places far away. Instead, people started to send New Year greeting cards.
In the Meiji era, the nation-wide postal system was developed and post cards were published at the same time. The custom of sending “nengajo” spread rapidly. Nowadays people send them not only to distant but also nearby places.
In 1949, Lottery post cards came in 1949. They were started to give people hope, encouragement and vitality after the World War II. In the beginning, those who won in the lottery got prizes such as travel tickets, local food or stamps.
Recently, young people prefer to send their New Year’s greetings using SNS or Internet. However, the number of nengajo delivered by mail has not seen a sharp decrease. That means, nengajo, delivered on Jan. 1st still has a special place in the Japanese culture.
To write nengajo offers a good opportunity to say thank you and communicate with friends and people who took good care or helped you during the past year. Nengajo is Japanese treasure to bond with others.
The zodiac of 2019 is the boar. The boar meat is nutritious food that prevents diseases. The boar symbolizes good health. Nengajo are available at all post offices, stationery and convenience stores.