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, in Japan, there is a traditional custom of giving children a new year’s gift of money during the first seven 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?

Meaning of Otoshidama

Otoshidama Money in Special Envelops

In ancient Japan, people believed gods exist and come to their homes on New Year’s Day. So they decorated their houses and prepared offerings to welcome the gods.

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

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

Because of that, the household head replaced the invisible with money 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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