Oshogatsu, or the New Year, is the biggest holiday in Japan. We don’t do much for Christmas, and in fact, we don’t even get off of work for it, but we’ll have between 1 to 2 weeks of vacation during the New Year. This time of year, traditionally, we decorate with mochi, a sticky rice cake. We stack two on top of each other, and then put a daidai orange or mikan on top. This is called kagami mochi, and it’s a traditional offering to Shinto gods. The families who grow their own mochi rice often make the mochi for kagami mochi themselves. Rachel and I made some with my uncle last year. This holiday is important for families, and most people will spend it with their parents. On New Year’s morning we eat zouni, which is a mochi soup, and osechi. Osechi is made of many small portions of various foods that are each considered good luck. On New Year’s Day, shrines and temples will be very busy. We traditionally visit multiple shrines and temples to pray. Large shrines may even have small festivals with yatai, or foot stalls outside. This year, our shrine was SO busy that the line to pray curved around half the shrine’s perimeter. And since we were not religious enough to stand in line in the snow for 40 minutes, we gave up and went home. Many people also travel and visit their relatives with their families. This year Rachel and I went with my family to visit my aunt and uncle where we had a feast with sukiyaki and osechi and watched New Year’s television. There is a famous TV program on New Year’s Day that shows many famous people doing funny and ridiculous things every year. For example, master chefs replicate daily life items with food and then place them in a room with real items, and people well call tarento, or talent, have to guess which ones are food by trying to eat them. These things aren’t tradition, but they’re an entertaining part of New Year’s Day. We also visited my grandpa and my aunt and uncles on the other side of my family the next day and had another feast, this time with sushi and fried foods. Another part of the New Year is cards you buy at the post office called nengajou. These are special post cards that you send to your friends and acquaintances. And the Japanese postal system works incredibly hard and attempts to deliver every single one on January 1st. These cards are extra special because each one has a lottery number on the bottom. So for every nengajou you receive, you have a chance to win various prizes from the post office. This used to be things like TVs or free trips, but these days it’s cash. This year they will announce the winners on January 18th. I hope we win! It may not sound as fun as Christmas since we don’t get presents, but kids actually get something called Otoshidama, which is money given to them by their relatives. It can be anywhere from about $10 – $100 from each relative for families with a normal income. I used to spend all my otoshidama on books, but now that I’m an adult, I don’t get it anymore. If my sister has kids one day, I’ll have to give them otoshidama, so I hope she never gets married. Anyway, thank you for watching about our New Year’s holiday! What’s the biggest holiday in your country?