[NOTE: Updated December 2020 for freshness & clarity.]
In Japan, the tradition of welcoming the new year is drastically more peaceful and zen-like compared to the U.S. For Japanese, the tradition is called 大掃除 “oosouji” meaning a big cleaning. During this cleanup time, Japanese clean their homes and cars.
New Year is the biggest and most important holiday in Japan. It’s a way to start over, a fresh start. Japanese believe that New Year’s day represents how the rest of the year will be like. Thus, the day should be stress-free and everything should be clean.
Monks in temples ring large bells (Joya-no-kane) throughout Japan signaling the end of the old year and the start of the new one. The bells are rung 108 times because, according to Buddhism, humans have 108 problem desires and by hearing the bells 108 times, we can rid ourselves of all these desires at the end of the year.
While waiting for the arrival of the new year, Japanese eat 年越し蕎麦 (としこしそば (toshikoshi soba), which means “end the old year and enter the new year soba noodles.” Toshikoshi soba (or buckwheat noodles) dates back to around the Edo period (17-19th century) and are believed to symbolize longevity.
Wishing everyone a fresh start to the New Year. Here’s to a cleansing of the old and a fresh new beginning.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Development Advisor & Consultant
Itoh, M. (2008). Toshikoshi Soba or Year-End Soba: A bowl of hot soba noodles to end the year. Retrieved from http://www.justhungry.com/2003/12/toshikoshi_soba.html