from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. Strolling singers and dancers who go about at the beginning of the new year.
On the first day of the New Year, wandering minstrels called Manzai (always in couples), one of the two being called Manzai, the other Saizo, show themselves in the streets. . . .The phrase 'Manzai, Manzai,' or 'Senjiu Manzai' (A thousand times long life to you, ten thousand years of life to you), is constantly repeated by them.
Street minstrels, dancers, and acrobats make their appearance on the third day of the New Year, invading both the business and residential sections. Dressed in gay colors in the styles prescribed ancient custom, the manzai, or minstrels, sing and dance to the delight of both old and young.
‘Manzai,’ which translates from the Japanese as ‘comedian,’ was originally based around a festival to welcome the New Year, which the Japanese celebrate on January 1. (Okinawans also celebrate the Lunar New Year.)