Hagaki for New Years 2013

New Years is perhaps the biggest holiday in Japan.  In a lot of ways it is like Christmas in the states.  It is a holiday for families to come together, eat special foods, and even pray. Last year I experienced variations on New Years celebrations and there are a lot of things families can do. This holiday is so important because it marks the change between new and old. December then, is the time to prepare for this important season. One way most households prepare for the new year is cleaning. In order to start the new year fresh, many families do the deep cleaning that westerners call spring cleaning. Families also order osechi special New Years bento boxes of food so that no one need cook.

For many years one of the biggest parts of the New Years holiday has been contacting family and friends. The majority of this is done via special New Years post cards (Hagaki) called Nengajo. If you haven’t already ordered specially made Hagaki from the post office, it is probably too late. There is an option for latecomers though!

If all you need to know is how to address your Hagaki, see this post from last year, otherwise, you can get blank Hagaki from the post office and create your own special design featuring pictures or drawings! If you go this route you might want to have some design experience under your belt, but it is easy to do with Word or PowerPoint!

1. Pick up Nengajo

Blank Hagaki are available for 50yen each at the post they come in several colors. There are also a few with designs at the bottom so all you have to add is a message or picture. Some post offices will also give you a small gift for purchasing Hagaki there! When you buy the Hagaki you don’t have to worry about postage. It is already included.

2. Design your Nengajo

Set your page size in Word, PowerPoint, or your favorite design software to 4″x 6″ or whatever size your printed Hagaki actually is.  Use insert text box  to add messages in your favorite font.  If you want to go Japanese try “Akemashite omedetougozaimashita!”  which is a polite version of Happy New Year!

Next, include some pictures or design elements.  If you’re like me and you can’t draw, you can find stock photos online, or just include pictures of yourself or your family to share with your friends.  Since it’s the year of the snake you’ll probably want to include a snake of some kind.  Here’s what I came up with for this year!

(note the snake character is from istockphoto.com)

3.  Print and Address

Once you have your design finished, you will want to print your Hagaki.  Select boarder-less printing and the correct paper size.  Make sure you put the blank Hagaki in the feeder so that it will print with the top towards the end with the zip code boxes on the other side.

To address your Hagaki you can either hand write them or print them.  See my post on New Years Cards from last year for more details!

Good luck with your New Years preparations!