Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Japanese do osoji, cleaning that is!

Literally, it means free and clean. It refers to the year-end cleaning Japanese do. Not just a little neatening up. Hands-and-knees, sweat-equity scrubbing, sweeping, waxing and buffing so they enter the new year ready for whatever awaits them.

More broadly, it refers to the custom of getting your affairs squared away before Dec. 31. That means paying all overdue bills, performing any obligations yet unmet and metaphorically purifying yourself.

We move, if we follow the Oriental calendar, from the Year of the Rat to the Year of the Ox.

Hungry for Words writes: In the west, at the start of spring is the time to do a big cleaning. In Japan, (o-souji), which literally means ‘big cleaning’, is at the end of the year.

O-souji is not just about getting the house in order before relatives and friends come over on New Year’s Day. It has a spiritual and religious significance. For Japanese vocabulary and additional cultural information, click here for more!