Language | WELL SAID

Terms related to New Year’s celebrations

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Contributing Writer

Osechi-ryōri-tte, kirei-desu-ne. (New Year’s dishes are really beautiful.)

Situation 1: On Jan. 1, a young trainee, Adam, is invited by his boss, Mr. Okubo, to his family’s home.

アダム: うわあ、お節料理って、きれいですね。何か意味があるんですか。

大久保: うん。どの料理も、縁起がいいことを表しているんだ。たとえばカズノコを食べると、子孫がたくさんできて家が繁栄するという意味なんだよ。

Adam: Uwā, osechi-ryōri-tte, kirei-desu-ne. Nanika imi-ga aru-n-desu-ka.

Ōkubo: Un. Dono ryōri-mo, engi-ga ii koto-o arawashite-iru-n-da. Tatoeba kazunoko-o taberu-to, shison-ga takusan dekite ie-ga han’ei-suru-to iu imi-nan-da-yo.


Adam: Wow, New Year dishes are really beautiful! Do they have any meaning?

Okubo: Yeah. Every dish represents auspiciousness. For example, when you eat the eggs of herring, it means that you will have lots of children and your house will be prosperous.

Today we’ll introduce some words related to New Year’s celebrations. Mochi, or rice cakes, are typically made and eaten — toasted or in soup — during the new year period. Besides rice cakes, there’s also osechi-ryōri (special New Year’s dishes), which are various kinds of foods put in special wooden boxes. As Mr. Okubo explains, every osechi dish has a special meaning. The phrase 縁起(えんぎ)がいい means auspicious.

Situation 2: The company president makes a speech to employees at an all-company meeting on Jan. 4.

社長: あけましておめでとうございます。今日は、新しい年の仕事始めです。気持ちを新たに、またみんなで頑張りましょう。

Shachō: Akemashite omedetō-gozaimasu. Kyō-wa atarashii toshi-no shigoto-hajime-desu. Kimochi-o arata-ni, mata minna-de ganbarimashō.

President: Happy New Year. Today is the beginning of our new work year. Let’s renew our frame of mind and again do our best.

The adjective めでたい means “auspicious.” The polite form of めでたい is おめでたい and the polite form of the phrase めでたいです (It’s a happy occasion) is おめでとうございます, used generally as a greeting on happy occasions. To refer to the new year specifically, words like 新年(しんねん, new year) and あけまして (to dawn) are put at the beginning. おめでたい can also be used to describe a silly person with a charming character. See how Adam describes himself in this way in the Bonus Dialogue below.

Bonus Dialogue: Continued from Situation 1. Mr. Okubo’s niece Eri is also at his house.

大久保: アダムくんもえりも、めでたい席(せき)だから、 どんどん食(た)べて、飲(の)んで。

えり: おじさん、食事(しょくじ)やお酒(さけ)をあんまり 勧(すす)めるのは、年寄(とし)りのすることよ。 ねえ、アダムさん。

アダム: え?…いえ、あのう、ぼく、お酒(さけ)、いただきます。課長(かちょう)、こんなすてきな姪(めい)ご さんをご紹介(しょうかい)いただき、ありがとうございます。今日(きょう)から日本(にほん)での生活(せいかつ)が寂(さび)しくなくなります。

大久保: え? どういう意味(いみ)?

アダム: 今日はえりさんとお見合(みあ)い…ですよね?

えり: えーっ? まさか!

大久保: えりは、アメリカに住 (す)んでいて、正月(しょうがつ)休(やす)みにちょっと帰国(きこく)してきたんだよ。明日(あした)アメリカにもどるんだ。

アダム: えっ、そうなんですか! すみません、早(はや)とちりしてしまって…。ぼく、おめでたいですね…。

大久保: ハハハ! めでたい日(ひ)に、おめでたい人(ひと)は大(だい)歓迎(かんげい)だよ。さあ、飲んで、飲んで!

Okubo: Adam, Eri, please have more food and drinks. It’s a happy occasion after all.

Eri: Uncle, urging people to eat and drink too much is what old men typically do. Right, Adam?

Adam: Huh? Uh, well … I’ll have another glass of sake. Boss, thank you for introducing me to your lovely niece. I’ll no longer be lonely here in Japan.

Okubo: What? What do you mean?

Adam: Weren’t you trying to set up Eri and I today?

Eri: What? No way!

Okubo: Eri lives in the U.S. and just came back for the New Year’s holiday. She’ll return to the U.S. tomorrow.

Adam: Oh, is that so! I’m sorry, I’ve jumped to conclusions. How silly of me.

Okubo: Ha ha ha! A silly and jolly person is very much welcome on this happy occasion. Now drink!