Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 8th, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese
Informant Background: This individual was born and grew up in Hawaii. His family is of Japanese and Chinese descent. He speaks Japanese and English. His family still practice many Japanese traditions, also many Chinese traditions. They celebrate some of the Japanese holidays. Many of the folk-beliefs and superstitious are still practiced. His relatives who are Japanese lives in Hawaii as well. He currently lives in Los Angeles to attend college.
At New Year’s Eve, it is a Japanese tradition that you eat long strand of noodles which signifies a long and healthy life. Next, you have to eat the sticky rice, mochi, which represent how your family will stick together. Then, you go to the temple where you can make a wish and pick up different kinds of blessed paper which represents different things in your life such as: safe travel, good study, etc. You do these things with your family, relative, and close friends.
Though the informant’s family migrated to Hawaii two generations ago they still practice Japanese rituals and traditions during important holidays. It is not only important that these rituals have to be performed, but also importance that they are performed correctly to bring the individual a good coming next year.
I believe that almost everybody have some kind of New Year’s Even traditions depending on the culture. New Year’s Eve is also one of the main periods of liminality since it is the transition period of one of the longest life cycle measurement. The New Year also signifies the end of something as well as the beginning. This tradition shows how food and everyday activity is made special during the liminal period as a way to create foreshadow of events or even a positive self-fulfillment prophecy(making a wish at midnight, drinking champagne, etc).
According to the informant the food consumed during this time of year is made slightly different but from the same ingredients as the food eaten every day. The form of the food becomes metaphor to many valued aspect in that culture: long life and family ties. Similar to other culture holiday traditions, certain foods are exclusive to those events and those events only.
The blessed paper is to foresee and start the New Year with good luck and goals for the coming year. I’ve observed on my trip to Japan once that there are many type of these paper that one can purchased: good luck, good grades, good relationship, pass an exam, get into university, etc. This reflects the idea of a “life fulfillment prophecy” where the beliefs that you will get good luck can help bring you good luck.
In this Japanese tradition to do all the traditions is not only to foreshadow a good year but also foreshadow a good year with your family. The idea that these rituals are done with people close to you shows how the transition period is not only important to the individual, but the collective as well.
The performance of these traditions also shows how some individual is reinforcing his cultural identity from his geographical origin without being there.