A symbol of renewal, New Year’s Day is the most important holiday in Japan. Throughout December, many Bonenkai or “forget the year parties” are held to say farewell to the problems and concerns from the past year and to prepare for a new beginning.
All misunderstandings and hard feelings are pardoned and houses are scrubbed. At midnight on December 31st, the Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times in order to dismiss 108 different types of human weaknesses.
New Year’s Day itself is a day of joy in which no work is to be done. The children receive small gifts with money inside known as “otoshidamas.”