We started our New Year’s Celebration on New Year’s Eve with a soba noodle dinner. I’ve been told that it’s a tradition to have soba noodles on New Year’s Eve and udon noodles for New Year’s dinner. The long noodles represent longevity and a long prosperous year to come. Also, soba noodles easily break. This can represent any misfortune you’ve experienced throughout the year, that it can now break and you can let it go.
We spent the last few hours of the year watching the annual Kouhaku Uta Gassen (red and white team singing competition). Various performers, new and old and put into teams. Women on the red team and men on the white team. All the performances are judged by a panel of judges and the audience. The winning team is announced at the end of the show. Spoiler alert: the white team won. After the grand finale, we watched the ringing of the bells from a shrine in Hokkaido until it was midnight. And then like that it was the New Year.
The big New Year meal in Japan is breakfast. It’s called “oseshi ryouri.” This includes a ton of different foods that frankly I mostly have no idea what they are. One thing for sure is that the presentation of everything is quite beautiful. They all have a purpose, meaning, and symbolism (also which I don’t know). Also included in this meal is mochi. Mochi is made from rice that’s pounded into a paste and then molded into a shape. It’s kind of tough and chewy. We ate it in our soup, but you can have it toasted plain too. I’m sure there are a lot of other ways to eat it as well that I’m not aware of. This whole meal is honestly not my favorite meal, but I really like participating in the tradition. I was also very excited for Ellie and Chloe to experience this too.
My dad has a funny story about New Year’s breakfast when my parents came to visit with us eight years ago. My dad just wanted to grab a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby before walking over to Aya’s parent’s house. My mom was upstairs getting ready blissfully unaware of the anxiety my dad was about to experience. He was greeted by the hotel manager proudly offering him the “Japanese New Year’s breakfast.” My dad is not an adventuresome person with food at all. Not even close. His immediate reaction was, “uh oh. Oh NO! I’ve heard about this. I won’t like this! GET ME OUT OF HERE!” But not wanting to be rude, but with great fright, he agreed to try some things. He didn’t know if what he was eating was plant-based or fish-based, but he just kept thinking, “All I wanted was a cup of coffee!”
When he got to Aya’s parents he showed them pictures of the things he had eaten while they gasped in surprise. We all got a good laugh and it makes a great story. At least he got his coffee in the end.
Today we will go to the shrine in Aya’s parent’s neighborhood and check out the local festivities before having our New Year’s dinner.
Wishing everyone a healthy and happy New Year!