Wednesday, January 05, 2005

New Year's Ceremony at My Parents'

Sorry, the pics are blurred.
On New Year’s Day, our family (including my sis, her husband and kids) get together in a room withTokonoma (an alcove for ritual displays) and celebrate New Year’s Day. Again, this may or may not be a popular way to celebrate the beginning of a new year in Japan, so please do not generalize :)

It is definitely not a Japanese tradition to leave old newspaper under the decoration. (Dad forgot to take it away.)

We sit in a line near the Tokonoma. First, each person holds this ornament (?) with both hands for a few seconds to wish good luck for the new year, then pass it onto the next person.

All the foods and plants here have symbolic meanings related to good luck.

This container is filled with rice, and on top of it are sliced mochi (rice cakes), daidai orange (symbolizes the success passed from generation to generation = daidai in Japanese), sprig of bamboo, pine and plum (symbolize blessing of longevity), thinly-cut kobu (kelp: happiness and joy, from a Japanese word, yorokobu = to feel happy), kachiguri (dried chestnuts: victory because Kachi means "winning") and hoshigaki (dried persimmon: long life).
* This site helped me so much to confirm my vague knowledge of those symbolic meanings. Very detailed and extensive information about Japanese New Year’s customs. Impressive!

Then we drink just a little of otoso (sake dedicated to god), eat shredded grilled squid and pass them onto the next person.

Finally, in the same room, we eat zoni (rice cake soup). Only a little amount is served for the ceremony.

Zoni (Soup with Rice Cakes)

THIS could be the most unorthodox zoni in Japan, BTW. I know the ingredients of zoni differ so much from place to place, but it is generally said that in the eastern half of Japan soy-sauce based zoni soup with square rice cakes is popular, and in the western half, miso-based soup with round rice cakes. My parents live in the western half of Japan, but see, this zoni is soy-sauce based. What’s more unusual is that we put thinly-cut konbu (kelp) and fish (yellowtail) only in addition to mochi, and absolutely no vegetable! None of our relatives make zoni like this. I have absolutely no idea how this zoni became our family tradition, but I love the fishy flavor of this unique zoni.

After the ceremony is over, we go straight into the dining room and PIG OUT ;)


spottiswoode said...

Hi Obachan, I made butajiru using ur recipe! Hv put a pic on my blog! Thanks so much, it was yummy! :)

Ms One Boobie said...

Very intersting .. Obachan.. and thank you for sharing these useful info .. :)

Immortal Geisha said...

Dear Obachan,

Thank you for sharing your family traditions for New Year's Day.

I found your blog whilst searching for home cooked Japanese recipes - and I must say, I am hooked! I sat down and read though every month!

Thank you for such a lovely and interesting blog - and boy, I feel hungry every time I read it!

Kind Regards,

ting-aling said...

We had our own ritual of ringing in the New Year but not as ceremonious as yours. It's not a Filipino tradition. It's more for the sake of fun. 'wanna know what it is?

We raised our wineglasses. (LOL). Cheers!

obachan said...

> spottiswoode --- Oh, that’s great! Thanks for trying it out.

> MrsTweety --- You know, this is how kids learn the taste of sake in my family….

> Immortal Geisha --- Thanks for visiting and commenting! Your comment really made me feel rewarded. Come visit often ;) My cooking and English are not improving so much, but my photo-taking would be better this year (hopefully).

> ting-aling --- Sounds like my kind of ritual ;) You know what? At my parents’ house, women are not allowed to drink alcohol except for the sake for this ceremony. So every year, my less-formal celebration starts after I come back to my apartment. I like the less-formal one as much as the formal one, if not more.

Anonymous said...


Very interesting ceremony. Sounds nice. Been a third generation Japanese in Hawaii, I have no idea of traditional ceremonies. Although my mom still has her ozoni soup on New Year's day. She puts in hokigai clams with broth from the can, mizuna and round rice cakes. Is that common? -lance

cooknengr said...

Hi Obachan. Is that decoration supposed to look like a cute rodent or is it my imagination ?

obachan said...

> lance --- I can’t tell if that’s common or not, because there are just too many variations of ozoni soup in Japan. Your mom’s version sounds so tempting to me. I like ozoni with some kind of seafood.

> cooknengr --- uh…. That’s actually supposed to be a Scottish terrier... No, I’m kidding.
It is your imagination. But I guess you’re not the only one ;)