Japanese New Year

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The Japanese celebrate New Year's Day on January 1 each year on the Gregorian Calendar. Before 1873, the date of the Japanese New Year (正月 shōgatsu?) was based on the Chinese lunar calendar, just as the contemporary Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese New Years are celebrated to this day. However, in 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, so the first day of January is the official New Year's Day in modern Japan. It is considered by most Japanese to be one of the most important annual festivals and has been celebrated for centuries with its own unique customs.

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Traditional food

Japanese people eat a special selection of dishes during the New Year celebration called osechi-ryōri (御節料理 or お節料理?), typically shortened to osechi. This consists of boiled seaweed (昆布 kombu?), fish cakes (蒲鉾 kamaboko?), mashed sweet potato with chestnut (栗きんとん kurikinton?), simmered burdock root (金平牛蒡 kinpira gobo?), and sweetened black soybeans (黒豆 kuromame?). Many of these dishes are sweet, sour, or dried, so they can keep without refrigeration—the culinary traditions date to a time before households had refrigerators, when most stores closed for the holidays. There are many variations of osechi, and some foods eaten in one region are not eaten in other places (or are considered unfortunate or even banned) on New Year's Day. Another popular dish is ozōni (お雑煮?), a soup with omochi (お餅?) and other ingredients that differ based on various regions of Japan. Today, sashimi and sushi are often eaten, as well as non-Japanese foods. To let the overworked stomach rest, seven-herb rice soup (七草粥 nanakusa-gayu?) is prepared on the seventh day of January, a day known as jinjitsu (人日?).

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