[The American Years]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Akemashite Omedetoh

Which is Happy New Year in Japanese. Happy Year of the Mouse, or Rat. It's no longer the year of the pig.

Yes, I'm a month late.

Japanese celebrate Buddhist on New Year's Eve, but don't follow the Lunar New Year calendar, which usually has the New Year in February. Many people in the US call it "Chinese New Year", but that's not as enlightened as calling it Buddhist New Year, or even Lunar New Year. Best is "Embarrassingly Late New Year".

Christmas Eve is a party and date night, with fireworks and festivals. New Year's is solemn and holy. Basically opposite of the our methods. Go to Buddhist Temple on New Year's Eve, when they ring and ring those massive bells you've all seen. Then they go to Shinto Shrines on New Year's Day, especially at Sunrise, to ensure good luck for the coming year. Then, at some point, they sleep.

Cynics can argue that there's a fine line between religion on superstition. In Japan it appears to be an especially squiggly, dotted and smeared line. I didn't live there long enough to know what was up, but it seemed to me that most of the reward system of Shinto is tied up temporaly. Do this or that and get good luck or good fortune.

I'm off topic. My main reason for bringing up Japan again, and for bringing up the New Year again is to celebrate Nengajo! New Year's Cards! We send Christmas cards, and we got New Year's Cards back. They're typically postcards, with pictures of the family members, well wishes, and a stamp showing the New Year's animal... Mousy Rat!

The samples we got this year (If someone can make it to that "portrait" images aren't shrunk so bad in Picasa slideshows, I'd kiss them.):

A funny Mac vs PC commercial from Japan which features New Year's Cards. (And you thought we had the monopoly on geeky PC vs hipster Mac adverts.) Side note, I lived in Japan for a year, and knew and worked with hundreds of the guy on the left. The guy on the right doesn't exist in Japanese society. Maybe there are lots of hip people, and lots of Mac users, but none of them are like that guy.

FYI: Inoshishi, or Japanese Wild Boar, as mentioned in the Mac vs PC ad. For year of the Pig. Acutally he is kinda cute.

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