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Oshogatsu / New Year is the most important holiday for Japanese people!

Soon after Christmas, Japanese people start preparing for the year-end and New Year’s events.Families and relatives get together to celebrate and pray for good health for our family on New Year’s day. It seems to be the same as or similar to people who celebrate Christmas.”♪もう、いくつねるとお正月♪How many more times do we have to go to bed before New Year's Day?” These are the lyrics of a famous nursery song,which has kept singing for a long time in Japan.This song expresses that children are eager to wait for the coming of “Osho-gatsu / New Year’s Day”.New Year is the most

important holiday for Japanese people!It is still a common custom that everybody visits family and welcomes New Year together. Nyapan spends the time in a really traditional style for New Year.

I eat “Toshikoshi-Soba(*1) late at night on New year’s eve,and after eating it up, I visit “Hatsu-moude(*2)”.I have a lively time with my family, but it is also a solemn time. I forget bad things,which have already passed, and start the new year again.

The most delightful thing of New Year's Day is a feast!The special food for New Year is “Ozoni(*3) “ and “Osechi-ryori(*4)”.

Many different kinds of beautifully -arranged dishes are set on the table.

Most dishes of “Osechi-ryori are cooked in

order to be preserved for at least three days,because women don’t have to cook and can take a rest from housework during Oshogatsu/New year.Each dish and ingredient in “Osechi” has special meanings.

For example:“Kuro-Mame(boiled black beans)”is for health and to live longer. Mame in Japanese also means diligently.So, eating Mameis wishing to work diligently.

“Kazunoko” is a salted herring roe.The skins peeled off and soaks in a salted soup stock.Since herrings have a lot of eggs, it also means “both parents” in Japanese,so, people eat to wish for prosperity of the family.This is Nyapan’s favorite, because it goes with Japanese Sake!

“Tazukuri or Gomame” is sweet fried sardines wishing for good harvest.

“Tataki-Gobo” is made of burdock roots that means also wishing for good harvest and family’s health.

Red and white “Kamaboko”,is a cake of steamed fish paste.Red is to ward off evil spirits and white is a symbol of purity.

And there are a lot more Osechi food, such as”Datemaki(sweet rolled omelet.mixed with fish paste), ”Tai(red snapper) and ”Ise-ebi(Japanese spiny lobster)”.All ingredients have the meaning good fortune.

And “Ozoni(*3)” is a soup,which has numerous regional versions in Japan. If I tell you about it, it might take a whole year!

While I eat these various foods, I must gain weight during New Year’s holidays…

It can’t be helped! If I only eat and do nothing, nobody scolds me. This is the New Year’s holiday!

1)Toshikosi Soba(year-end noodles) 年越しそば

It is the buckwheat noodle dish eaten on New Years eve for wishing good luck.

It is said that the custom was wide spread in Edo period(1603~1868). There are many theories as to why this has become a tradition.

The common reasons are

・Soba noodles are long and thin.It represents a long life.

・Compared to other noodles, Soba is easier to break. It refers to cut away any bad luck.

2)Hatsu-mode(First visit to shrine)初詣

The first visit a shrine(or temple) to pray for happiness and good health.

The origin of Hatsu-mode is that the patriarchal men of a family visited a shrine and prayed for their family’s health from midnight on New Year’s eve to the early morning on New Year’s day.

Now, many people visit a shrine on New Year’s day and famous shrines are so crowded.So, there are many people who visit a shrine on 2nd or 3rd, or on later days.

3)Ozoni(Japanese soup)お雑煮:

Ozoni(is also called Zoni) is a Japanese traditional soup for the New Year.

It normally contains Mochi(sticky rice cake) and some vegetables. There are many variations of the shapes or Mochi(square or round) and the ingredients,depending on the region and household.

4)Osechi-ryori お節料理:

The special food for New Year. These are beautifully arranged in Tiered lacquer boxes.This section is referenced in the main body of the text.

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