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New Year’s Eve: Japanese church provides fun and meaningful ways to celebrate

I grew up in Japan as a missionary kid. Every New Year’s Eve our family opened the doors of the church for a social gathering. During the evening we pounded rice (mochi tsuki) and enjoyed hanging out together.*

Most Japanese people go to shrines at this time of year to offer their prayers for blessings and good fortune for the New Year. But the church my parents’ were planting created an alternative. We would invite people from church and others from the community to come to church to do mochi tsuki. Adults and those in junior high and high school would take turns pounding. Even little kids would lift the big wooden mallet with their parents and help out. I remember it being an exciting evening, especially as I saw the rice transform into mochi before my eyes. It was also fun to put many different sweet fillings into the mochi. A sense of community was built as we took turns and encouraged each other on.  

Around 11:30pm, each person would write down a Bible verse that was meaningful to them and put it into a basket. We would then take turns pulling out a verse without looking. We were encouraged to use that verse as our theme verse of the year, if we desired to do so. This helped us finish the year and start a new year with God’s Word. 

One year I drew out a verse from the basket that I kept for the next three years: “’I will bring him near and he will come close to me—for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?’ declares the LORD. ‘So you will be my people, and I will be your God’” (Jeremiah 30:21b-22 NIV).

I am grateful that I could make mochi and have lots of delicious memories. I’m also thankful that my mind was directed to the true Creator of heaven and earth every year during the New Year time. 

Another thing many Japanese churches do is have a New Year’s Day worship service. Even now at my parents’ church, they continue to do mochi tsuki! 

* Mochi is a traditional Japanese rice cake made of short-grained rice pounded into a paste.

by Aaron, an OMF missionary in Japan

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Please pray that many Japanese churches will be creative in organizing alternative events and activities in place of traditional Japanese religious activities.
  • Pray that Japanese people will realise that going to church is also a viable option and go.
  • Pray that many more Japanese will come to know the Creator of heaven and earth for themselves.


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