Tuesday, December 02, 2008

mochu hagaki

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.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

The year my grandmother passed away, a few months before Christmas, my mom didn't have the heart to write out Christmas cards. As a result, she and my dad didn't receive Christmas cards from a number of people they'd been exchanging cards with for years (decades even). Quite understandably, I guess some people felt like they had been cut from my parents' Christmas card list and gave up writing to them. I like the mochu hagaki practice because it lets people know why you aren't following a time honored tradition that year. However, I was wondering: If the people you send the mochu hagaki to didn't know about the loss of a loved one, do they usually send their condolences after receiving it?

Suze said...

How sad, I just hope we can get our cards out in time since I have to make them this year. I guess that means we don't get a photo card from you this year right?

K and S said...

Sorry Suze, but we aren't sending out the Christmas/New Year card we normally send out. I hope you can get yours out on time, yours is always so festive.

Hi Anon, some people actually call in their condolences, but do not send anything as most times many months have passed.

Take care you two.
Kat

2kamuela47 said...

Interesting. 2008 had it's ups and downs but no matter what correspondences we receive it's always a blessing. I always felt that sending and receiving cards and letters via snail mail is more personable. Take care and God Bless! Laura

Gwen said...

Always interesting to read the customs and traditions of the culture. It's always, in one word, honorable.

K and S said...

Thanks Gwen and Laura!


Take care you two.
Kat

Anonymous said...

That is so interesting about the mochu hagaki.

I wish we did nengajo here. I hosted a nengajo swap a couple years back and it was really fun.

-myra

K and S said...

Thank you Myra. That nengajo swap must have been fun :)

Take care.
Kat

Phoebe said...

This is so humbling and I do appreciate that nengajo gives off such an indication that it is formal and respective.

K and S said...

Thanks Phoebe :)

Take care.
Kat

Jenster said...

What a nice tradition and I appreciate the fact that you can sending out notices of mourning so people won't wonder why they didn't hear from you. However, after you've sent out your notice, if someone still wants to send you a nengajo, is that considered a breach of etiquette on their part?

K and S said...

I guess it would be a breach of etiquette Jenster, though we've sent out nengajo and then have people send us their mochu hagaki because they sent them out late (you usually send out the mochu hagaki before December 10).

Take care.
Kat

chimerastone said...

I'm so sorry to hear Satoshi's father has passed away. On reading your post gives me an insight to your culture.
Well,If you were wondering I'm Chinese by the way, my culture is different. New year which will be the Ox is celebrated on 26th January 2009 following the Lunar calendar. I'll be arriving in Hong Kong at that time. The New Year Cards are red and printed in gold. Red being lucky and Gold means prosperity.
Do you have a custom to celebrate the deceased? In the festival of Ching Ming(near Spring), we go our ancestor's grave to 'bi san', just to honour them. Paper objects are burnt so they will receive them in the afterlife. Last time in H.K, this was done to my grandfather's shrine. Because he lived in other side of the world I don't see him much but can still visit his grave.

K and S said...

Thanks Chimerastone,
my Chinese friends in Hawaii celebrate Ching Ming and there are also big Chinese New Year celebrations in Chinatown. It is nice that you can visit your grandfather's shrine whenever you are in H.K.

Take care.
Kat

Fuji Mama said...

I love the nengajo tradition, and will likely continue doing it (though we'll see if I can actually manage it this year!). I'm sorry to hear about your FIL.

K and S said...

Thanks Fuji Mama, I hope you will be able to keep up with your nengajo :)

Take care.
Kat

Chishiki said...

Hi! I'd like to know, what is the proper way to greet "happy new year" to a Japanese friend who had a family member that died in the year? Thanks!

K and S said...

Chishiki,
Usually we say "Akemashite Omedetoo". But, in mourning we say, "sakunen iroiro O-sewa ni narimashita, Kotoshimo yoroshiku onegaishimasu". We do not use "omedetoo".
Hope this helps.
Take care.
Kat