Every December a kanji character is chosen in Japan that represents the year that coming to an end, and the character is written in traditional 習字 (calligraphy) by the head monk at a temple in Kyoto and presented in a ceremony to the public.
Last year (2008), the character 「変」 (“change“) was chosen. Click here to read my post from last year to see why that character was chosen.
It was decided that since the U.S. elected a historic new President, Japan elected a Prime Minister from a new party, and also because of the global epidemic of “Swine Flu” which is called 「新型インフルエンザ」 (“New Flu”) in Japan…that the kanji character for 2009 is 「新」, which means “new“.
Here’s a picture of the head monk writing the character 「新」 (“new”) in traditional Japanese calligraphy: