(All the photos on this post are from Wikipedia.)
Happy New Years, everybody! I thought I'd share some information about how the Japanese celebrate New Years Day. Here's what I learned from Wikipedia.
The Japanese celebrate New Year's Day on January 1 each year. Before 1873, the date of the Japanese New Year (正月, shōgatsu) was based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar and celebrated at the beginning of spring, just as the contemporary Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese New Years are celebrated to this day. However, in 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, so the first day of January is the official New Year's Day in modern Japan. It is considered by most Japanese to be one of the most important annual festivals and has been celebrated for centuries with its own unique customs.
Japanese people eat a special selection of dishes during the New Year celebration called osechi-ryōri (御節料理 or お節料理, osechi-ryōri), typically shortened to osechi. A popular soup is ozōni (お雑煮, ozōni), consisting of miso, boiled seaweed (昆布, konbu), fish cakes (蒲鉾, kamaboko), mashed sweet potato with chestnut (栗きんとん, kurikinton), simmered burdock root (金平牛蒡, kinpira gobo), and sweetened black soybeans (黒豆, kuromame). Many of these dishes are sweet, sour, or dried, so they can keep without refrigeration—the culinary traditions date to a time before households had refrigerators, when most stores closed for the holidays. There are many variations of osechi, and some foods eaten in one region are not eaten in other places (or are even banned) on New Year's Day. Today, sashimi and sushi are often eaten, as well as non-Japanese foods. To let the overworked stomach rest, seven-herb rice soup (七草粥, nanakusa-gayu) is prepared on the seventh day of January, a day known as jinjitsu (人日, jinjitsu).
You're supposed to display this kadomatsu arrangement at the entrance of your house to welcome Toshigami to protect the house and to bring long life and strength to the family. I WAS going to buy it but then you're supposed to throw it away after New Years Day and I just couldn't do it. (Granted if it was a bunch of roses, you'd have to pay even more and then still throw it away in a matter of days. I know. I know.)
Although the only thing we did in Illinois was to make sushi on New Years Day in addition to cleaning up the house a bit, it's a little more elaborate in Hawaii. We'll do a few of those dishes listed above.
Art's uncle and aunt brought over some mochi (rice cakes that he pounded himself).
My mom says that shrimp is also eaten because the curve of the shrimp's back resembles an old person therefore signifying longevity. We'll also be eating noodles (another symbol of long life). Kazunoko (fish eggs, I think)and kobu maki (pork wrapped in seaweed, kuromame are also on the menu. My mother will be making lemon chicken and I'm in charge of crab casserole for those in our family with more western leaning taste buds.
We did clean the house. That's very important. We've been trying to organize things better to start the year fresh although it drives my mom crazy when I reorganize the kitchen and she can't find what she needs. We've paid all our bills, written all our thank you letters, etc.
However, I think the thing that sets New Years apart in Hawaii is the FIREWORKS. I've already been warned that there's a LOT of fireworks around here and that I should close all the windows well before midnight because the smoke pollution will be terrible and unhealthy. Thank goodness for trade winds.
My mom says the noise is deafening. My friends tell me they have to sedate their dogs. There were fireworks here for the 4th of July but apparently that's nothing compared to New Years when fireworks are supposed to chase away evil spirits according to Chinese custom. Everybody is Chinese during New Years just like we're all Irish on St. Paddy's Day!