Holiday Traditions

Christmas (unless you are celebrating the 12 days of Christmas old-school) is over. But fortunately for me, my favorite holiday is actually New Year. More precisely, I love celebrating Oshogatsu with my family. It is the Japanese observance of each new year, and for time immemorial (okay, at least as long as my mom has been telling me what to do) it has begun with these three tenets:

  1. Clean your house
  2. Pay your debts
  3. Have a feast

In fact, the most thorough cleaning my house gets each year is just before New Year’s. I can’t help it! Spring cleaning just doesn’t do it for me. I’m all about the mid-winter cleaning. Anyway.

Notably more fun than cleaning is the “have a feast” part. For as many years as I can remember, our family begins our feast at 1:00 pm on New Year’s Day, and it is the ONLY thing that our entire family does on time all year long. We raise an assortment of shotglasses and tiny paper Dixie cups filled with sake or sparkling cider and toast the new year. Then comes the food…and there are always certain things that are eaten at the Oshogatsu feast.

  • Kamaboko – fish cakes
  • Tangerines
  • Ozoni – a special soup made with mochi (sticky rice cakes)
  • Kuromame – sweet black beans
  • Soba – buckwheat noodles, my personal favorite!

Since I am part of the fourth generation of Japanese Americans (my great-grandparents being Issei, my grandfather Nisei, and my mom Sansei) we have also added some other things to our celebration. At our new year celebration, you will usually find:

  • Tempura vegetables
  • Pickled cucumber salad
  • Sushi
  • Assorted salads
  • Mochi with red bean filling
  • Fried chicken

Hey, it’s the melting pot, right? Yeah. Anyway…enough of this. I have to go clean my house!

Peace, love, and a Happy New Year!
Sumiko

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