I am getting ready to writing this year’s nengajo, New Year’s cards. I was planning to write to 10 people only which is surely manageable even though I can write Kanji only very badly and slowly. However, I just received a mochu hagaki card, which means there is one less nengajo to write this year.
Mochu hagaki are mourning postcards sent at the beginning of December, and essentially they say “I had a death in the family, please do not send me nengajo this year.” The idea is first to pay respects to the deceased, and second, when your father just died, for example, how can the New Year be a “happy” one. This seems to apply to closest family only, however, and just for one year.
Another friend told me that many old people for whom writing dozens of New Year’s cards becomes too burdensome, will write something like “this is my last nengajo” onto the card. This not only means that you will not receive any more from them, but also that you are not allowed to send them any! Doing so anyway is considered rude! I have not received any such card yet – my friends are not that old – but isn’t it interesting how many rules there are for something so simple as a New Year’s card?