The Meaning of New Year’s Otoshidama Money

Happy New Year! “Oshogatsu (お正月)” has finally come!

Speaking of Oshogatsu, have you ever heard that in Japan there is a traditional custom of giving children a new year’s gift of money during the first 7 days of the year?

As you may already know, the tradition is called “Otoshidama (お年玉)” where adults give their children and relatives’ kids a special allowance in special envelopes.

However, why do Japanese adults give children the new year’s gift of money during the period of Oshogatsu?

The Meaning of Otoshidama

Otoshidama Money in Special Envelops

In ancient Japan, it was widely believed that gods exist and come to people’s homes on New Year’s Day. Hence, people at the time prepared offerings for welcoming the gods, decorating their houses.

In return for that, the gods gave the head of the household a new spirit, thanks to which it was considered he could have a healthy life throughout the year.

As this indicates, Otoshidama originally meant the gift of a new spirit from gods to the house owner. It was an invisible thing from which children couldn’t benefit.

Taking that into consideration, the household head replaced the invisible gift with money in order to share the gods’ blessing with children. And this is the beginning of the modern Otoshidama.

(Reference Page: Gakken Kidsnet )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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