What are the phrases used on nengajō (New Year's greetings)?

Nengajō (年賀状) are Japanese New Year's greeting cards. They usually feature a decoration of the year's animal in the Chinese zodiac (see What Western dates correspond to what Japanese dates?) and some greetings wishing the receiver a happy new year.

Typical nengajō greetings include

Kanji/kana Romanization Meaning
今年もよろしくお願いします Kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu I hope for your favour in the coming year.
あけましておめでとうございます Akemashite o-medetō-gozaimasu New Year's congratulations
謹賀新年 Kinga shinnen Happy New Year
賀春 Gashun These literally mean "early spring". The new year in Japan used to be the same as the current Chinese new year, hence it was later than now.
初春 Shoshun
頌春 Shōshun

The Japanese post office promises to deliver the cards on the morning of the first of January if the card is posted within certain deadlines in December.

If a person has undergone a sad event, such as a death in the family, that person does not send any New Year's greeting cards that year, but instead posts an apology letter, usually printed in black on white. This is called mochū ketsurei (喪中欠礼). Many consider that it is also not appropriate to send a New Year's card to a person who has suffered a death in their family.


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