A Happy New Year!: The Beginning-Of-The-Year Greeting



  1. In short: You can say “おめでとうございます Omedetoo gozaimasu” to celebrate anything
  2. On grammar: an unusual te-form, ”あけまして akemashite”
  3. Other occasions in which they use ”まして mashite”
  4. A little more on the verb “あけます akemasu”
  5. Bonus: The verb for the opposite meaning, “くれます kuremasu”


1.  In short: You can say “おめでとうございます Omedetoo gozaimasu” to celebrate anything

On January First, and for about a week after that, we say, “A Happy New Year!” or:

あけまして おめでとうございます! Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu!

…to each other.

You can use “おめでとうございます。Omedetoo gozaimasu!” (Congratulations!) to congratulate practically anything. You can mention the matter for the congratulation before the greeting, as in the following:

Example 1: おたんじょうおめでとうございます。O-tanjoobi omedetoo gozaimasu. (Congratulations on your birthday!)

Ex. 2: ごそつぎょうおめでとうございます。Go-sotsugyoo omedetoo gozaimasu. (Congratulations on your graduation!)

Ex. 3: ごしょうしんおめでとうございます。Go-shooshin omedetoo gozaimasu. (Congratulations on your graduation!)

Ex. 4:  ご結婚けっこんおめでとうございます。Go-kekkon omedetoo gozaimasu. (Congratulations on your wedding!)

Also, we can use a verb in “て te form” to show the reason of congratulations. See the following:

Ex. 5: ごとつかって、おめでとう。 Shigoto ga mitsukatte, omedetoo! (Congratulations on your having found a new job!)

Ex. 6: ぼう学校がっこうはいれて、おめでとう。Kiboo no gakkoo ni hairete, omedetoo! (Congratulations on your acceptance at the school you wanted to attend.)

Ex. 7: びょうなおって、おめでとう。Byooki ga naotte, omedetoo! (Congratulations on your recovery!)

The sentences with “て te form” sound more casual, so in examples 5-7, we used the friendly “おめでとう! Omedetoo! ” dropping “ございます gozaimasu” for the greeting.

To be even more informal, you can replace “おめでとう! Omedetoo!” with “よかったね! Yokatta ne!” (Good for you! I am glad that it happened to you!)

2.  On grammar: An unusual te-form, ”あけまして akemashite”

As we discussed earlier, “あけまして akemashite” in “あけましておめでとうございます Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu” shows the reason for congratulation, but the formation is a little different.

The verb is “あけます akemasu (meaning [the old year] to end)”. Usually we use “あけて akete” as its “て te form”. “あけまして akemashite” here is based on the “ます masu” form in order to sound more formal.  

Therefore, “あけまして akemashite” balances with the formality of the ending “おめでとうございます omedetoo gozaimasu.”

The beginning-of-the-year greeting is so important in the Japanese social life that “あけましておめでとうございます Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu” has become a set phase. We never say “あけておめでとうございます。Akete omedetoo gozaimasu.”

Of course there is always a reaction to an established form of culture, and about twenty years ago, young people began to use “あけおめ Ake ome!” in their text and e-mail messages, as the shortened version of this beginning-of-the-year greeting. It is very casual and so it is fun to exchange them between friends. However, we don’t use it toward or between adults engaged in business.

3. Other occasions in which they use ”まして mashite”

Then, do some people always speak politely in conversation by using “まして mashite” instead of “て te” form? The answer is “No”. 

In modern Japanese, we hardly use “まして mashite” except in very formal greetings or when we need to sound particularly respectful, polite and formal.

For example, it is frequently used by the customer service of businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, and public transportation and so on. You may have heard an announcement like this on the train when you were in Japan:

Ex. 8. このたび列車れっしゃおくれまして皆様みなさま大変たいへん迷惑めいわくをおかけしております。Kono tabi wa ressha ga okuremashite mina-sama ni taihen go-meiwaku o o-kake-shite orimasu. (We sincerely apologize for the serious inconvenience we have caused you because of the delays of this train.)

4.  A little more on the verb “あけます akemasu”

The verb “あけます akemasu (けます meaning to end)” has a very limited meaning. The subject of the verb is usually “the night” and it is used as follows:

Ex. 9. けました。Yo ga akemashita. (The night ended and the new day has begun.)

This “あけます akemasu” is different in a couple of ways from “けます (akemasu, a transitive verb)” meaning to open something. First, it is spelled with a different Chinese character, “”. Also, it is an intransitive verb and the meaning is “the night has ended and there is light of the new day”. 

On the first day of the year, we stretch the meaning to “the night has ended and there is light of the new year”.

Ex. 10.  としけました。Toshi ga akemashita. (The year ended and a new year has begun.)

Ex. 11.  けましておめでとうございます。Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu. (A Happy New Year! Congratulations on the new year which has begun!)

5. Bonus: The verb for the opposite meaning, “くれます kuremasu”

The opposite of the verb “けます akemasu (a night ends)” is “れます kuremasu (a day ends)”. It means the sun sets and it becomes dark.

They say its etymology may have something to do with “くろ kuro (black)”, “くらい kurai (dark)” just as “けます akemasu” seems to have something to do with “あかるい akarui (light)”.

Figuratively, it is also used to say a period finishes. Some examples are to follow:

Ex. 12. れました。 Hi ga kuremashita. (The sun set. =Night fell. =The day ended.)

Ex. 13. あととおとしれます。Ato tooka de kotoshi mo kuremasu. (In ten days this year will end.)

Ex. 14. としはるれていきます。Kotoshi no haru mo kurete ikimasu. (Another spring is leaving.)

Ex. 15. 今日きょうもワードプレスと格闘かくとうしているうちにれてしまった。Kyoo mo waado puresu to kakutoo shite iru uchi ni kurete shimatta. (Today again ended as I struggled with WordPress.)

[End of post]

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