In Japan, we have a word for the last day of the month, "misoka" and in the old days all bills were due then. Today is "Oh-Misoka" or the Big Misoka, and in addition to bills, if one borrowed something during the year, if one has become indebted to someone, the borrowed items were returned and polite "Thank you's" were conveyed to those who helped you.
By the way, the month of December has a nickname, "Shiwasu" or "teachers running"; the month is such a busy one even teachers, who are usually dignified and cannot be rushed, need to get a move on to finish everything that is required of them.
And on the home front, we do, as it were, the whole Spring Cleaning in one day. In the dead of the winter. And I hear winter came early this year and the northern half of Japan has had February temperatures and snow falls this month. Of course many mothers plan well and start cleaning incrementally, but even fathers help on this special cleaning day. Most families finish cleaning sometime in the evening, and then we sit together and have a super simple bowl of soba (buckwheat) noodles either as part of dinner, or near midnight. Soba noodle is nothing special, we eat it all the time, but it's slightly more brittle than other noodles, so since the Edo Era we've been eating it on Ohmisoka evening to sever our ties with all the bad things that happened during the year.
Whereas the name "New Year's Eve" seems to me to mean only the day, or evening, preceding The Big Day, it is an important day in its own right in Japan, and we don't get drunk, but sit with family, eat mandarins, maybe watch the telly or a movie, shoot the breeze and chill out. And some people go out even later to be at a shrine, or the top of Mt Fuji, at midnight. It is an important day, and even when I was 31I got in hot water because I wanted to go out with Ben to see a famous shopping area selling Hagoita, decorative Japanese racket for a genteel version of badminton-like sport; it wasn't so much the actual cleaning, but the absence of common sense for him to ask me out on Ohmisoka and for me to want to go that absolutely enraged my mother. Needless to say, I didn't go. (Though I must add, at a younger age my brother was allowed to go out with friends.)
So Ben and I did your ritual/symbolic cleaning today. And it's a good thing because the house really needed it. He also made a pasta dinner, but we might have soba too, at midnight, just a small bowl.
I printed out my 2013 Things to Remember,
The water turned grainy brown at around 4PM and I had to ring the City Council. I really didn't want a plumber to have to come to my house just before 5PM on New Year's Eve, and in the end the water cleared, but I'm fringing the cashmere scarves, and I'm not sure if I want to wash them tonight.
And way before all that, at the start of the day, I sheared Ben. He has new glasses and they require very short and tidy look. More than his old pair.
There is three and a half hours left of 2012 here. Thank you for your company, and I shall count on some more in the coming 2013.