Shogatsu (正月)

Shogatsu refers to the first several days of a calendar year and, from a cultural viewpoint, an event to celebrate passing of the previous year, which was uneventful, and the new year. During shogatsu, people actively and gorgeously celebrate the new year by attending shogatsu events and enjoying shogatsu dishes. In Japan, although only New Year's Day, January 1st, is a national holiday, at least the period of sanganichi (the three days) through January 3rd (sometimes including several days following it) is substantially a holiday period, and is actually called 'o-shogatsu' (a polite form of shogatsu).

Shogatsu in Japan

Although 'shogatsu' is originally another name for January, shogatsu often refers to a period from January 1st to January 3rd (sanganichi) or 'matsu-no-uchi (this period is originally through January 15th, but currently through January 7th for some people.)
For some people, shogatsu refers to a period from January 1st to January 20th, and January 20th is called hatsuka- (20th of a month) shogatsu (hone- [bone] shogatsu). There are two kinds of shogatsu, which are: 'oh-shogatsu' (large shogatsu) which is based on New Year's Day according to the solar calendar; and 'ko-shogatsu' (small shogatsu) which is based on January 15th according to the lunar calendar. In some areas, oh-shogatsu is also called oh-doshi (large year) and otoko no shogatsu (men's shogatsu) and, in contrast, ko-shogatsu is called ko-doshi (small year) and onna no shogatsu (women's shogatsu). January 8th (January 13th in the Kansai Region) is called 'shogatsu-kotohajime' (start of things for shogatsu) and people start preparation for shogatsu.

January 1st is called ganjitsu, and the morning of ganjitsu is called gantan.
Although only ganjitsu is a national holiday, governmental offices are closed from December 29th to January 3rd and many ordinary companies follow this schedule and close during this period (while many financial institutions such as banks are closed from December 31 to January 3rd [except their ATMs, etc.] and this period may be extended for system maintenance.)
Therefore, the public transportation tends to operate based on the holiday schedule during this period including weekdays. On the other hand, until the 1970s (in the Kanto region) many retail stores used to be closed until around the end of matsu no uchi (January 5th to 7th), while the day in the new year on which retail stores started their operation became earlier due to the change of the people's lifestyles such as the appearance of convenience stores which operate 24 hours a day and, therefore, in and after the 1990s, many stores started their operation on the next day, January 2nd on a fewer-hours basis. More and more types of stores such as large-scale stores have also come to operate on ganjitsu though on a fewer-hours basis. Most of such stores return to their normal operation on around January 4th.

In the old days, shogatsu used to be an event to deify one's ancestors every half a year, along with o-bon in summer. However, as the influence of Buddhism became stronger, bon was combined with urabon, which is a Buddhist event, and became an event to hold a memorial service for one's ancestors while shogatsu was positioned to be a 'kami matsuri' (god festival) to pray for rich harvest of the year welcoming toshitoku-shin god (a god who controls the happiness of the year).

Because kazoedoshi (a calendar-year age) is increased by one on January 1st, shogatsu also used to be an event to celebrate a safe increase of people's age. Shogatsu lost such a meaning when people started to use the age based on the length of time from their birth, and shogatsu became an event to celebrate only the change of the calendar year (to welcome the new year).

Europe, the US, and the Christian world

In Europe and the US, only January 1st is a holiday and financial markets, etc., start their normal operation on the next day, January 2nd. Shogatsu is positioned to be one of the events held during the Christmas holidays (December 24th to January 1st). As to armed forces, all officers and soldiers who are not in engagement are returned home as their leave and camps and bases are closed.

January 1st: the first day of the Gregorian calendar is set to be this day in most countries.

Ros haSanah of the Jewish calendar is celebrated 163 days after the passing to the new year and, in the current Gregorian calendar, this does not fall on September 5th and any day before it (it last fell on September 5th in 1899 and will next fall on in 2033) and will not fall on September 6th or any day before it in and after 2089. Ros haSanah does not fall on October 5th and any day after it (it last fell on October 5th in 1967 and will next fall on in 2043) (see the Jewish calendar).

January 14th (January 1st of the Julian calendar): Orthodox Church; in the countries of the Orthodox Church, people celebrate both the New Year's Day of the Julian calendar as a religious holiday and the old New Year's Day, and the New Year's Day of the Gregorian calendar as a legal holiday.

Currently, more than a half of the Orthodox Churches employ the revised Julian calendar and celebrate New Year's Day on January 1st.

The Kobut Orthodox Church celebrates their Neyrouz (New Year's Day) on September 11th of the Gregorian calendar during 1900 and 2099 and celebrates the new year on September 12th of the Gregorian calendar in intercalary years. This name is originated from Nawrūz, the vernal equinox which means New Year's Day in Persian (the Iranian calendar). In the Kobut calendar, the origin of the date and the time corresponds to Mihragān, the autumnal equinox, which is the counterpart of the vernal equinox.

1723 in the Kobut calendar started in September 2005.

For the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (the Ethiopian calendar), September 11 is Enkutatash (New Year's Day) similar to that of the Kobut; 2005 in the Gregorian calendar falls on 1998 in the Ethiopian calendar.

In Thelema, the current Aeon (the current one is the third Aeon and started from Aeon of Horus which was 1904 in the Gregorian calendar) is celebrated together with Heru-ra-ha.

China and the Eastern world

Chinese calendar (the lunar and solar calendar): the day of a new moon between January 21st and February 21st in the Gregorian calendar is chun-jie (in Chinese), the Chinese New Year's Day.

The Chinese calendar differs from the Gregorian calendar and is astronomically determined based on the revolution of the moon and, therefore, New Year's Day moves within the range of about one month.

In a cycle of 60 years based on the ten celestial signs and the twelve horary signs, each year is named a combination of one of the 12 kinds of animals and one of the ten kinds of elements (eto).

Although the Chinese New Year is important in mainland China, Taiwan, and Korea, January 1st is also their legal holiday and January 1st used to be called 'yuan-dan' in Chinese (which corresponds to the above gantan) in mainland China and Taiwan (in and before 1912), and is a holiday for one whole day and is called 'shinsho' in Korean in Korea and is a holiday for one whole day.

In the Chinese culture area such as Hong Kong and Singapore, people celebrate the new year according to the lunar calendar in most cases.

The Vietnamese new year, Tết Nguyên Đán in Vietnamese often falls on the same day in the Chinese calendar, however, they may differ from each other by one day due to the difference in the longitude between the two countries.

In Tibet, Losar (their new year in Tibetan) moves between January and March because of the Tibetan calendar (the lunar and solar calendar) and their new year holidays are one to three days of the first month in the lunar calendar.

India and the south Asian World

The new year in the Tamil calendar, Puthandu and Vishu, are used in the state of Tamil Nadu and the state of Kerala in southern India and generally fall on April 13th or April 14th in the Gregorian calendar.

On the Deccan Plateau in India, Ugadu (the new year) is set during a term between March and April in the Gregorian calendar.

Thai people celebrate their new year of the Kingdom of Thailand on April 13th to April 15th, throwing water on each other.

Sri Lankan people celebrate their new year (Aluth Avurudhu in Sinhalese and Puththandu in Tamil) in April when the position of the sun moves from Pisces to Aries, and the new year usually falls on April 13th or 14th.

People of Cambodia and Laos celebrate their new year on April 13th to 15th.

The new year celebrated in Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal in India, Poila Baisakh in the local language, is April 14th to 15th

Neo Beigan celebrates Samhain (a celebration event of the Celtic people in the ancient days and this was around November 1st in the Gregorian calendar) as their new year.

Gujarati (a generic term referring to the people who speak Gujarati and who are from the area of the state of Gujarat) celebrate their new year for two days which follow Diwali in Hindi (a Hindu holiday in the middle of November).

The new year, Hola Mohalla in the local language, in the Nanakshahi calendar of the Sikh is March 14th.

In Bali Island, 1st of Kadasa in the local language (October in Saka calendar) which falls on the next day of the new moon around the vernal equinox is Nyepi in the local language. On Nyepi, it is prohibited to go out, use fire (electricity), yell, and work, and people have to stay in silence.

The new year in the state of Punjab in India is the 1st of the first month of Nanakshahi calendar (the solar calendar) and this falls on April 13th of the Gregorian calendar and on April 14th once in 36 years.

Middle and Near East and Islamic world

According to the Iranian calendar, Nowrūz in the local language (the first day of the year or the new year) is the vernal equinox. In Iran, there is a custom called haft sīn to celebrate the new year with seven items whose names all start with س, including apple (sīb), garlic (sīr), and vinegar (serke). In the central Asian countries, people celebrate Nowrūz on the vernal equinox, although Nowrūz is not considered the new year.

In the Islamic calendar, the new year is the 1st of the month of Muharam (January of the Islamic calendar) and, because the Islamic calendar includes 12 lunar months and 354 days, the number of days in the Islamic calendar differs from that in the Gregorian calendar by 11. In 2008 of the Gregorian calendar, there were two Islamic new years.

The new year in the Assyria calendar, Rish Nissanu is the vernal equinox, March 21st.

The new year of the Baha'i Calendar, Naw-Rúz is the vernal equinox, March 21st.

History of the new year (the first day of the new year)

In ancient Rome, one year included 10 months; March was the first month and March 1st was New Year's Day (the first day of the new year).

In around B.C. 713, January and February were added by Numa Pompilius and January 1st became New Year's Day, while this system was not used by governmental officers until B.C. 153 (the yearly calendar was revised to that starting from January and ending with December and the seventh to the twelfth months named in a language branched from Latin became names in Latin such as [in English as examples]: September [meaning the seventh], October [meaning the eighth], November [meaning the ninth], and December [meaning the tenth].)

In B.C. 45, Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar (which had no intercalary year) and, similar to the Gregorian calendar, January 1st became New Year's Day (the first day of the new year).

The Christmas-style calendar had its new year on its December 25th, was used until the 13th Century in Germany and England, and was introduced into Spain in the 14th to 16th Centuries.

A calendar which had its new year on the Annunciation (March 25th) was introduced in 525 by a monk Dionusius Exigus who was born in Dobruja in Rumania, and this calendar was used in many areas in medieval Europe. In the Kingdom of Great Britain, the above calendar was used until January 1st, 1752 (except Scotland, which employed a Circumcision-style calendar on January 1st, 1600 which had its new year on January 1st).
Later on, Great Britain changed its calendar from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar while, even today, the taxation year has its new year's day on April 6th (which is March 25th plus 12 days, of which 11 days are the difference generated by the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar and one more day is an intercalary day of the year 1900.)

A calendar which had its new year's day on its Easter that fell on a Saturday (or a holy Friday), was used in France in the 11th to the 16th Centuries, and Easter is a movable holiday and its same date comes every two years.

A calendar which had its new year's day on March 1st of the ancient Roman calendar was used until 1797 in the Republic of Venezia and from 988 to the end of the 15th Century in Russia and, in Russia, September 1st was new year's day from the end of the 15th Century to the introduction of the western calendar in 1700 (in Russia, before this introduction, the years had been counted from the mythic creation of the world).

According to the ritual calendar of the Catholic Church, the first day of the four weeks before the Christmas was the start of a year.

According to the French Republic calendar (which was used from 1793 to 1805), the autumnal equinox (which was usually September 22nd) was new year's day (the first day of the new year).

In China, 'zheng-yue' (Chinese reading of the Chinese characters for shogatsu) refers to January in the solar calendar. Shogatsu in Japan is, in China, 'zheng-yue-chu-yi' (the first day of January) or 'da-nian-chu-yi' (the first day of a large year) in Chinese, that is so-called chun-jie in Chinese.

The old-shogatsu in Japan

January 1st (in the old calendar) {which is around the start of spring in the calendar and which is around February in the Gregorian calendar (the new calendar)} according to the old calendar (in Japan, the Tempo calendar) is called kyu-shogatsu (old new year). In countries such as the People's Republic of China, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, the old new year is more important than the new year of the new calendar and the new year's gift money is presented on this day. The new year's day is called in Chinese 'chun-jie' (spring festival', 'guo-nian' (passing of a year), and 'nong-li-xin-nian' (the new year's day of the agricultural calendar) in mainland China, and is called 'teto' in Vietnamese in Vietnam. The word 'teto' corresponds to the reading in Vietnamese of a Chinese character 'jie' (meaning festival). January (the old calendar) of the old calendar is called 'shogatsu' (in the old calendar, 'shogatsu' is the formal name and 'ichi-gatsu' [meaning January] is another name), and the kyu-shogatsu (the old new year's day) is also called 'shotan'. In Japan, people celebrate kyu-shogatsu in some areas such as Okinawa Prefecture and the Amami Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Sayings concerning shogatsu
Shogatsu is also said to be a milepost for the trip to the other world (this is otherwise kadomatsu [a decoration for the new year made of pine branches, etc.] is a milestone for the trip to the other world) and both of the sayings have the following phrase as their latter half: it should be celebrated and should not be. It is said that this saying was created by Ikkyu, a Buddhist monk.

Shogatsu-gai (new year shopping): when a man plays with a prostitute in a licensed quarter in shogatsu, extra expenses such as a money gift are necessary.

[Original Japanese]