Tuesday, January 3, 2017

a chicken-y new year (1)

Here are a few of the chicken-y etegami I made to send out in time for New Year's Day delivery. I've written often on this blog of the Japanese custom of sending New Year postcards (nengajou), so rather than repeating myself here, please check out this post for an overview of the history and tradition of nengajou.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2017 is the year of the rooster, but in Japan, we don't limit ourselves to roosters. Our New Year's cards and decorations are clucking and peeping with hens and newborn chicks too.  Even chicken eggs, or birds other than chickens.

The photo (below) shows just a few of the big stack of nengajou I found in my mailbox on New Year's morning. Some of the cards depict auspicious subjects other than the zodiac animal of the year: for example, plum blossoms, red-crowned cranes, Otafuku (a plump-cheeked, smiling woman said to bring luck and happiness), and --of course-- Mt. Fuji.

Most of the nengajou are printed on postcards with pre-printed lottery numbers on the addressed side. The post office announces the winning numbers in February. I often have at least one winning number in my pile that qualifies me for the smallest prize of collectable postage stamps.

When I was a child they used to give away television sets and bicycles for the top prizes, but I never knew anyone who was that lucky. The hand-painted nengajou I receive from my etegami friends, which I value the most among all the cards I receive, are not painted on the pre-printed lottery cards (which are not absorbent enough for etegami). But there is a second way to participate in the lottery, and that is by affixing to your own hand-painted card a special New Year postage stamp printed with a lottery number.