As the end of year approaches, we reflect on what happened this year; our triumphant moments, embarrassing accidents, endearing memories, new relationships, and sad goodbyes. Whatever happened, we can look forward to starting over in a great new year.

So what do the Japanese people do to welcome a new year? Well, there are many customs surrounding the New Year, but today, I would like to introduce the Nengajo, a traditional New Year’s Card.

Just like Christmas cards in other countries, the Nengajo is a great way to show appreciation for your coworkers and mentors who have been kind to you in the past year. It is also a perfect opportunity to correspond with friends and relatives who you might not have seen or talked to for some time.

The standard size for a Nengajo is the same as a postcard, but there’s a wide variety to choose from. Let’s look at some designs.

Thanks to the hard work of the postal service, the Nengajo almost always arrives on New Year’s Day. If you are thinking of sending a Nengajo, make sure to mail them by Dec. 25th with “Nenga” printed in red ink below the stamp.

Also, if you look at the address side of Nengajo, you’ll notice there are several numbers at the bottom. These are special “Nenga lottery numbers” with which you might be able to win some prizes. The winning numbers are announced on Sunday, Jan. 17. So don’t forget to check them out in a newspaper, at the local post office or the Japan Post website.

The numbers at the bottom might bring you some good luck!

Although the origin of the Nengajo is unknown, Japanese people have been sending them since the Edo period. Unfortunately, because of easier and faster ways of communicating, people are sending less and less Nengajo every year. But there’s always something special about seeing them arrive on New Year’s Day. Reading the personalized handwritten and warm wishes from family and friends will certainly bring joy to many Japanese people.

Getting the bundled stack of postcard-sized Nengajo is a gift for the eyes and for the heart, and a nice way to send off last year and receive a happy new year.

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