The Japanese have a

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The Japanese have a very nifty tradition for new year's greetings.

People mail postcards (called nenga hagaki) to one another. The post office sells pre-franked cards with cartoon charaters or other scenes and lottery numbers printed on them. The lottery is drawn in mid-January and these cards are very popular--a greeting and a potential gift all in one. 576,908 lottery post cards were sent this year.

But you can buy more refined or personalised postcards at stationery stores or even make your own. We made ours this year using small squares of colored paper and rubber stamps to greet the Year of the Snake.

When you deposit your new year postcards into a specially marked "new years mail" slot on any street corner post box, the post office sorts the cards by address and holds them until new year's day, when they are delivered in a bunch to pretty much every house in the nation. Everyone waits with anticipation for the mail that day. Me included.

The first year we lived in Japan we got one card (from our realtor); last year we received three from friends. This year we didn't have any. What a disappointment. Maybe we'll do better next year.

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