New Year in Japan - Otoshidama (お年玉)

The most exciting Oshōgatsu (“New Year”) tradition for school-age children in Japan is the custom of receiving otoshidama (New Year money) from their close elders, in a show of appreciation and good wishes. Presented in special pochibukuro (“small envelopes”) decorated with anything from New Year symbols to manga characters, it’s good etiquette to avoid opening otoshidama in front of others. The amount given usually depends on the child’s age, and some parents put half the amount towards their children’s personal savings.   

So, where did otoshidama originate from? Traditionally, parents gifted children with kagami mochi (small “mirror rice cakes” that were offered to the deity Toshigami) and they were originally known as... toshidama. 


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