Christmas isn't a national celebration in Japan and is more recognised as a time for the young to party. However, New Year is the family date of the year. Until the time of the Meiji Restoration Japan followed the Chinese calendar and so New Year would move from year to year but under the new government it was decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar and so for at least one day a year the family will come together for a traditional breakfast with as many generations around the table as possible.
One of the favourite staples for this meal is called ozoni, a small bowl of soup which also contains mochi, a form of rice that has been pounded (traditionally with a huge wooden mallet) until it has the consistency of thick, sticky rubber. Each year, as this food is being quaffed, the mochi can become stuck in your throat and indeed a number of people succumb to suffocation as a result. Hence, the recommended approach to New Year's breakfast is to always have a vacuum clear near by. When someone starts to choke the only solution is to put the tube down their throat and suck the mixture out.