Festival – Hawaii/Japan

My informant described the traditions that people in Hawaii carry out on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. More specifically, he described to me what Japanese-Americans in Hawaii do to celebrate because he is part Japanese. He says that one of the biggest traditions that Japanese people carry out is the popping of fireworks. On New Year’s Eve on the dot of twelve, almost everyone in Hawaii pops fireworks on their front lawn. The fireworks that they pop are long strings of red firecrackers, and they create very loud popping sounds. He said that there is a legend for why Asian-Americans do this in Hawaii; however, the tale actually started in China. The story begins with a dragon that lived in the mountains. Every New Year’s, the dragon would come down from his mountain and into the village to steal away the little children and eat them. For many years, the people in the village could not figure out what to do. Instead of being happy and celebrating the New Year, people were very afraid of the events that would undoubtedly come. Then, one day, a man thought of using gunpowder to scare away the dragon. At the strike of midnight, the man set off the gunpowder and it scared away the dragon. Now, it is tradition to “scare away the dragon” by being as loud as possible.

The next tradition that takes place is on New Year’s Day. He says that there is a huge Japanese karaoke song festival that many Japanese-Americans will watch the night of the start of the New Year. This festival is actually recorded in Japan on their New Year’s Eve. He and his family also drink a Japanese mochi soup called “ozoni.” Ozonie contains clear noodles in a chicken broth, and has a variety of vegetable such as baby corn, carrots, and bamboo shoots. At the very bottom of the dish is a piece of soft mochi. For dessert, he and his family will have Japanese-style mochi that is fried in butter. The mochi is then coated in a type of brown sugar called “kinako.”

My informant tells me that these traditions are very common in Hawaii. He says that the sound of all the firecrackers popping at the strike of twelve is very deafening. However, he says that it is a very exciting time, and it makes him and all of his neighbors feel closer to one another. The food that he and his family make is also something to have them bond. Because he is part Irish, part Chinese, and part Japanese, he does not actually have one culture to follow. He says that this way of celebrating the New Year is a good way for all of his cultures to mend together and accept one another.