@New Yearfs Day is a very special holiday in Japan. Naturally, greetings on that day are very important to start the new year socially, as well as in business. There used to be a custom during the first few days of the new year of calling on relatives, neighbors, superiors at work and those who had bestowed kindness over the preceding year. But after the post office began issuing postcards in 1873, people instead began sending these cards as a form of greeting.

In 1899, the post office started a service whereby it delivered New Yearfs cards on January 1st, if they were posted by a certain date in December. Since New Yearfs cards with lottery numbers went on sale in 1949, exchanging them has become very popular. If you are lucky, you can win something like a notebook personal computer, a regional specialty parcel, stamps, and so on.

To receive the cards on the morning of January 1st is one of the joys of New Yearfs Day. You can hear at least once a year from those you do not often meet. People receive them not only from their friends and relatives, but also from their colleagues and business acquaintances. The number of New Yearfs cards issued for 2007 by the Japan Post was 3.79 billion.

The cards often feature a picture of an animal representing the year. (There are twelve zodiacal animals representing each year in a 12-year cycle based on the ancient Chinese concept.jThe wild boar is the animal of 2007.

Sending New Yearfs cards is a custom like sending Christmas cards. But New Yearfs cards shouldnft arrive before New Yearfs Day. Another difference is that Japanese people do not exchange New Yearfs cards with those who have lost a loved one during the past year. If you receive a gmochuh notice in December, you should refrain from mailing a New Yearfs card to the sender. (A mochu notice is a postcard excusing the sender for not sending a New Yearfs card because of being in mourning.)