If you live in a western country, you likely have seen your fair share of Christmas cards. Indeed, the time-honored tradition of wearing an awkward sweater and posing uncomfortably is alive and well and something most look forward to every year. Despite the pandemic, it seems numerous Yuletide gatherers opted to send paper cards to friends and family during the holiday season.

Japan is, of course, a little different. Instead of Christmas cards, residents send New Year's cards to friends and family. One exception is families who have experienced a death over the past year who will neither send nor receive the traditional card. Instead, they send a mourning postcard informing friends of their loss before the giving season.

A special New Year’s card

Naturally, New Year's cards contain a sentimental value for those who give and receive them. In this spirit, New Year's card printing company Greetings Works hold a contest every year for the most memorable New Year's card stories. Last year, they received nearly a thousand entries, but the winner was a mother who received a special card from her son. You can see her story for yourself below:

Here is a translation of her story:

After oversleeping on New Year's day, I went to our postbox to get the New Year's cards we received that year. There, I found a sealed letter addressed to me. It was from my son’s special needs school.

My son has autism. He has trouble interacting with others. When I tell him "I love you," he always responds by saying "Oh, I see….." So I tell him every day.

I opened the envelope to find a single New Year's card. A kanji character was written on the card. Someone had used a thick brush, lots of ink, and almost written the character so large that it ran beyond the edge of the. It took a second to read.

The envelope also contained a message from my son's teacher. The message said that when their class wrote New Year's cards, my son wrote the character for ocean—海. When his teacher asked "Do you like the ocean?" he responded nonchalantly, "My mother is there." He pointed to the center of the character which contains the individual character for mother—母. Even during midwinter, my heart fills with warmth when I remember that moment.

I’ve cherished this New Year’s card for over 12 years. It was a love letter from my 18-year-old son.

If you liked this video or found the story to be heart-warming, you can see the winners from past contests on Aisatsujyo dotcom’s Youtube page here. Enjoy!

By - Luke Mahoney.