Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
Happy New Year!
Japanese culture is steeped in over a thousand years of tradition and protocol and food is no exception. Ingredients, preparations and even colors each have their own story, symbolism and seasonal importance. It’s no surprise then that oshogatsu (New Year’s), has its own set of foods that are specially prepared for the big day.
Oshogatsu is Japan’s biggest holiday and is analogous to Christmas in the US. People return to their hometowns to be with their family, and children are given little envelopes filled with money from relatives and acquaintances. On New Year’s Eve, families gather at shrines to make their first visit for the year right at midnight and to pray for a year filled with good luck and happiness.
|Toshi koshi soba|
Another New Year’s Eve tradition is to eat toshi koshi soba which literally translates to “year crossing soba”. The noodles are extra long to symbolize long-life and are served in a simple warm dashi broth with a piece of red and white (more like pink and white) kamaboko and some scallions.
|Kamaboko is made from fish, they called it Surimi, fish paste, fish loaf, fish cake, and fish sausage|
|Kamaboko Hello Kitty|
Because of the risk of cutting or burning yourself while cooking (which could lead to a year of misfortune), osechi ryori is always prepared in advance of the new year. Since refrigerators and microwaves are relatively recent advents, many of the foods are vinegared, dried or salted to aid in preservation and are eaten at room temperature.
These days, few families in Japan make their own osechi and instead opt for the elaborate pre-made boxes available everywhere from 7-Elevens to fancy department stores. The most revered kitchens are able to fetch as much as $2000 per set!
What kind of decorations will you see in Japan?
During Japanese New Year you will see many houses and shops with bamboo and pine decorations called kadomatsu on either side of doorways and entrances to buildings.
Ropes with white, zig zag streamers, which are usually only seen in temple or shrine grounds, are also strung across doorways.
Oshogatsu is a very special time in Japan. New Year means a chance for new beginnings and the pine and bamboo represent the shared wish that this year be strong, resilient, and full of life.
New Year decorations are put in place a few days before the celebrations start and stay on display for 14 days.