USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘holiday food’
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Japanese New Year’s Ozoni

KM is a third-generation Japanese-American from Los Angeles, CA. She now lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband and 18-year-old son.

KM described to me some of the basic traditions her family has for New Years Day, especially the cooking of “ozoni”:

“Ozoni is just a soup made with chicken broth, green onion, shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, chicken and mochi. My Auntie Kazuko would make it for us every year when we were growing up, and it’s always the first course of a New Year’s Day meal. All of [my mom's] siblings and my cousins would get together at [Auntie Kazuko's] house and while most of the day would be, you know, just a family gathering, we would all sit down together to eat the ozoni. It’s only cooked on New Year’s and you have to go to special Japanese markets to find the ingredients.

“Now with my siblings and kids and nieces and nephews, we get together at my sister’s place – she’s married to a Japanese man, and his mother makes the ozoni. The holiday is pretty similar to how it was for me, where everyone just gathers at someone’s house to watch football and eat food, but the making of the soup and eating it together is like one concrete tradition we do every year. I’m not sure who will keep making it after [my sister's mother-in-law] passes away though…”

My analysis:

The most interesting part of this food tradition for me is the shared background of the family members who actively carry it out – KH told me her Auntie Kazuko was most connected to their Japanese heritage, which is why she insisted on making the soup every year. Similarly, her sister’s mother-in-law is from Japan, and she is the one who facilitates the tradition. It really reveals how certain customs make it overseas when families would move to America, but also how fragile they are. KH isn’t sure anyone else in her family is motivated enough by their Japanese traditions to continue the laborious process of making this particular food. Traditional holidays tend to become more Americanized (in this case) over the years they’re observed away from their roots, and unless enough people are committed to certain customs, they can easily die out.

For more information about ozoni, see:

“Ozoni (Zoni) Recipe.” Japanese Cooking 101. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.japanesecooking101.com/ozoni-zoni-recipe/.
Earth cycle
Festival
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas for New Year’s

This is a New Year’s tradition practiced by my informant and her family every year.

“If you have collard greens on January first then you’ll make a lot of money, maybe because they’re both green. Similarly, if you have black eyed peas, then you’ll have luck throughout the rest of the year. And it has to be on January first. And then you just have meat, that’s not symbolic but you need something to go with collard greens and the black eyed peas. My grandmother told me that, and so she cooks for us for every new year.”

The tradition of eating black eyed peas for luck is also a Jewish tradition, and goes back for many centuries. It’s popular in the American south, probably brought there by the Jews and adopted by the society at large. As the informant says, collard greens are also a common New Year’s food thought to bring wealth in the coming year, as they resemble American bills. Both foods are exceptionally common in the American south (thus allowing most people to partake in the tradition without causing undue budgetary stress), which is where my informant’s family lives. The emphasis on it being January 1st also reflects the notion of its importance as the beginning of a new unit of time, in a liminal period where anything could happen and one could presumably set the tone for the next stage in life (ie, the new year).

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