January is also known as Mutsuki (or affection month) in Japan, a month that couples frequently intercommunicate in close and intimate harmony with each other, which is a widely-accepted theory. There are other names like Mototsuki, Moyutsuki, and the like. January, Oshogatsu comes in very Japanese events, representing Japanese customs. The period called Shogatsu is one week or 15 days, depending upon local regions, but January 1 is only called Ganjitsu and the morning of Ganjitsu is called Gantan all over Japan. The word Tan is said to describe the scene of the morning sun rising from the horizon.
January 1, the first day of the year, is the first of day, month and year respectively, as Moto, or the first and original, called Gan San (three firsts and originals), and the 3 days from January 1, has usually been called the current Sanganichi (3 days of Shogatsu).
Today, Ganjitsu is a national holiday and the government and other public offices not categorically but generally are closed December 29 through January 3, the period of which may vary, depending upon Saturday and Sunday (offices closed usually) falling on the period, which is mostly applicable to financial institutions like banks as well. Also, private manufacturers take relatively longer holidays while almost all of convenient stores and supermarkets are open.
At New years, people express their appreciation for our quiet life, pray for rich harvest, peace and safety of the families in the new year and welcome the god of the year. The god of the year is the deified spirits of ancestors who protect families, and the deified ancestors give us a zest for living, an occasion when we mutually confirm our happiness for living and thanks all together. That is what New Years are.
In general ,what we do at New Years, is first pay respects before shrines and temples right after it has changed to a new year, known as Hatsumoude, or a first visit to shrines and temples at New Years. Buying a good-luck charm, writing our wishes on a wooden plaque, or Ema (pictorial offering) so that they will come true, consulting an oracle with a paper fortune drawn, to have our fortune told and praying for a happy new year ahead.
In the morning, they drink Otoso, or New Year sake, eat Osechi ryouri and Ozouni, special cuisines. Then they take a look at New Years Greeting cards received, or greetings sent by friends or acquaintances, and give Otoshidama, or New Year monetary gifts to our children. Providing special decorations of Kagami-mochi, Shimenawa, Kadomatsu, etc., they welcome the god of the year. Such is the way that they would spend their time at New Years.