Holiday Tradition/Ritual – Japan

Holiday Traditions/ Rituals

Japanese New Year

On the Japanese New Year, Dana said all the food has some kind of meaning to it. Each year, her grandmother puts together big circle trays with seven different foods on it. The black beans are supposed to bring good health for the coming year. The black seaweed brings happiness. Bamboo brings luck. As for the rest, Dana cannot remember the purpose but does recall that the other foods are supposed to clean out the eater’s systm.

For breakfast, Dana and her family make a soup called Ozonu. First they make mochi by pounding sticky rice into mounds. The broth is made with vegetables. After adding the mochi to the broth, it melts. During the rest of the day, they eat sushi and Mochiko chicken, which is fried with a batter and soy sauce.

Mochi is a big deal on Japanese New Year, because it is only to be made on three days: the 28th, the 20th, or the 31st. Because the number 29 is unlucky in Japanese culture, the mochi cannot be made on that day. The first batch of mochi is offered to their ancestors. They make a large mochi and put two smaller ones on top. On top of this, they put tangerines, with one leaf. Dana is unsure why they do this. The whole thing is left for a couple of days and then thrown out. She enjoys this holiday very much and enjoys sharing the food with her friends who don’t celebrate the Japanese New Year.

This celebration is very detail and ritual-oriented. After doing further research into the significance of the stacked mochi and orange, it seems the purpose has been lost over the years and is now done solely out of tradition. However, many of the other rituals and traditions have very distinct functions.

I like how food is used to bring people together, symbolize a good, healthy life and to make offerings to ancestors. This holiday seems very family-oriented.