One of the unique and equally important of the Japanese when giving New Year greeting cards is their handwritten greetings. Why should this be so important?
The custom of sending New Year greetings is said to date back to the 8th century in Japan, but there is no document exactly who was the first. The custom is said to have helped the Japanese step away from the social convention of sending written wishes when not everyone can visit home.
What is the difference between Japan’s New Year greeting card?
Today, New Year cards (nengajo) have the same role as Christmas cards in other countries. However, they are sent in much larger quantities and are usually in the form of postcards. On average, each household will receive about 50–100 greeting cards. According to statistics from Japan Post, the number of postcards sent out reached a record in 2003 with 4.4 billion. According to the concept, sending so many postcards is how the Japanese strengthen the relationship with people and have a advancement in their careers.
Post offices, convenience stores, and stationery started selling postcards in early November. The cards often had pictures of Giap for the next year or simply with greetings. Unlike the image of a Vietnamese buffalo, the cow is the mascot of the year 2021.
All postcards will be stored and will begin to be delivered to each house on Western New Year (1/1). To ensure loved ones will receive postcards by New Year’s Day, people must send letters within 10 days from December 15-25.
According to a traditional ritual, workers and staff at more than 20,000 post offices across the country will hold an early morning ceremony before delivering postcards by van, motorbike, or bicycle.
Why is handwritten greetings important?
Handwriting the recipient’s address and wishes is not only an opportunity to show off your calligraphy skills, but also shows respect to the recipient. The card cover will leave space for the sender to write a brief greeting like Happy New Year (謹 賀 新年). Inside there will be a white card for you to write greetings or draw is also a good way. Besides, rubber stamps are often printed with traditional messages or Giap annually. Some people will buy a new ink pen to send their own wishes.
Handwriting a greeting is also a way for people to show off their calligraphy skills. Some common wishes are sent to relatives:
Hope you continue to help me this year!
Happy New Year’s Day!
Happy New Year!
In some cases, the sender will compose the haiku for the gift.
Handwritten in 4.0 era
However, according to Keita Ando, an artist working in Japan, the culture of handwritten New Year greetings as well as sending many postcards has declined sharply in recent years. Many people choose to print their greetings, especially the artists will design their own card templates to send to everyone. Not to mention the explosion of social media that has made many young people choose to text rather than write letters.
He also shared that the Japanese have a concept that you will be happy if you see one of the three images such as Mount Fuji, a hawk or an eggplant on the first dream of the new year. So many people will choose to draw one of the three pictures next to the Giap of that year. However, no one knows where this concept originated.
Faced with the change of times, the Japan Post has devised a way for them to continue to exist in society 4.0. It is a website with more than 1000 templates of greeting cards and users can buy the card they like and send directly to relatives and friends. Besides, the website also accepts to send anonymous mail to someone. Even so, receiving a real letter today is still a cherished thing.
At the end of 2020, a good signal is that the number of people sending postcards has skyrocketed by 126%, with the number of messages sent is 1.4 billion.
Interesting facts about Nengajo
- For households whose family member has just died during the year, they will not receive New Year’s greeting cards. In this case, the mourning family sends a funeral postcard (Mochu hagaki) in early December to let everyone know without sending them a greeting card.
- To preserve traditional culture, Japan Post has printed a series of winning numbers to stimulate people to buy postcards. In 2020, the awards include tickets to Olympic events (opening and closing ceremonies), electronic money for online shopping and 300,000 yen in cash.
- In 2015, a survey of 600 people surveyed why they don’t like greeting cards, 224 respondents that they don’t like cards that aren’t handwritten or that they don’t write anything more than short greetings. Another 96 said that they didn’t want to know what achievements their loved one made in the past year or asked personal questions like “when will you get married?”. On the more positive side, 47 people said they never received an unsightly card.
Article: Navi Nguyen