Every year, people send New Year's greetings to one another in the form of a postcard. This card is called Nengajo. The Nengajo is usually blank so that you can print a photo, or pictures of eto (Chinese zodiac sign) for the upcoming year. You can also take your photo to a shop and have it printed on special postcards to be mailed out. The younger generation just email one another.
I really enjoy receiving nengajo because most people print a photo of themselves from a vacation taken that year, or show how big their children got. The cards are really festive and colorful. On top of this, there is a lottery with the numbers at the bottom of the blank nengajo that you buy from the post office and you have the chance to win prizes, sometimes trips abroad.
The cards are delivered on the first 3 days of the New Year. The postmen take a day off then deliver more on the 5th day. There is one rule of nengajo that I just don't get, after you send out your cards, you sometimes receive one from someone you didn't send one to. For me, I would just put that person's name on my list for the next year, but Satoshi says you have to send one to that person right away. So sometimes, after the New Year has started you are still sending out cards. I guess it is being courteous to return the card, but to me there is just no end to it!
As you know, this year Satoshi's father passed away. As a rule of etiquette, you aren't supposed to send nengajo. Instead, you have to send out mochu hagaki or postcards saying that you are in mourning and will not be able to participate.
It is a way to let the people sending nengajo know not to send you any and to let them know that you won't be sending any out. The unwritten rule is that you need to send these mochu hagaki at the beginning of December. This is to give the people sending nengajo time to take you off their list for the year, but not to totally cross you off their list because you didn't send a card at all.
Normally when we send out nengajo, I design the cards and print them out on our computer with the names and addresses. Then I have Satoshi write a little message on each of his cards to give them a personal touch.
This year since we needed to send a formal mochu hagaki, we got them printed. The mochu hagaki can only be in black and white with maybe some yellow but definitely no other colors like blue, red or pink, even the stamps need to be the mourning type.
Since Satoshi works late during the week, we had to try to finish the cards on the weekend. So we spent several hours on Saturday night, writing the names and addresses of people that we normally send nengajo to. Instead of printing out the names and addresses by computer, I felt we should at least write the names and addresses by hand since we couldn't write any messages on the cards. Satoshi usually has more to send to than I do and was whining and moaning the whole time, "my handwriting sucks", blah blah blah. My list is usually shorter, so I finished my list of people then jumped in to help him.
Since we won't be receiving any nengajo, this year's New Years will definitely be low-key.