Kotohajime has begun!

Kotohajime (事始め, "the beginning of things") is a year-end tradition in which businessfolk go around visiting customers, teachers, and other useful acquaintances for their support during the year. It is an old Japanese tradition, which means that nowadays only those in self-consciously traditional Japanese occupations bother with it -- hence the maiko links above. Everyone else just sends a case of beer and calls it a year. (Actually, they call it seibo -- 歳暮, "year's end [gift]".)

Bonus question: why is kotohajime associated with December 13th? Wikipedia says that it's because the 13th of the 12th month would always fall on a Ghost day, which are, surprisingly, auspicious for everything but weddings. (The possibility that it's just convenient to start wrapping things up two weeks before the year ends, and the whole "Ghost" thing is an explanation added after the fact, should not be ignored.)

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