Tag Archives: life

Japanese New Year Feast

--Informant Info--
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/28/2020
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Every year, the informant cooks a Japanese New Year Feast for their family. It is an all-day affair where hundreds of guests, friends and family, can come and go to eat lunch and/or dinner and socialize with those present. The informant makes the following traditional dishes:
Ozoni (rice cake in vegetable soup) is the first thing eaten on New Year’s day and wishes good health and prosperity to the family
Gomame (dried sardines) to bless attendees with health
Kombu Maki (rolled kelp) to bring happiness and joy
Kuri Kinton (sweet potato or lima bean paste with chestnuts) to bring wealth
Renkon (lotus root) as a symbol for the wheel of life
Daikon (white raddish), carrots, and other root vegetables to promote deep family roots
Ise ebi (lobster) for the festive red color and to symbolize old age and longevity; note: the lobster must be served whole and cannot be broken lest the spine of the old ones break
The informant learned to cook and serve these dishes from their mother and has trained their daughter in how to give the feast. To the informant, The New Year is the most important holiday of the year as it is when the entire extended family comes together. Food preparations begin weeks before the event and there are leftovers for days after as a result of the concern that the table could run out of food.
My Thoughts
Some of the foods look similar to an object such as the lotus root looking like a wheel or the lobster’s spine curving like the spine of an older person while others symbolize good things for their cost or how the word for the food sounds similar to the word for whatever it symbolizes. The feast was a time to celebrate and welcome the New Year and do things that would hopefully ensure prosperity. It was a time where social barriers could be crossed and family meant everything. The extensive amount of time taken to prepare the foods probably shows the care that the family and friends have for one another and the desire to serve each other. The pursuit of good fortune in the food symbolism is an acknowledgement of the lack of control that they have over many aspects of their lives, particularly for the peasants who depended so much on the rulers of their areas.

Life’s a bitch, and then you die!

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Camas, Washington
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

“Life’s a bitch, and then you die!”

Folk saying

When I complained about upcoming exams, my informant told me, “Life’s a bitch, and then you die!”

My informant explained its importance to him: “My dad and his dad said this. It has been the quote I’ve associated with both of them because it represented their easygoing view on life and it conveyed the message to me to not take life too seriously and instead roll with the punches and accept it for what it is.”


Used to put people’s troubles in perspective, this proverb assuages people’s worries by illustrating that pain is prevalent in life, but since death is inevitable, there is no use in worrying about things (especially trivial things).

Chinese Proverb

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 68
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Taipei, Taiwan
Date of Performance/Collection: March 15, 2012
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): Taiwanese

“If you want to live, you have got to keep moving.”

My informant told me this proverb while she was taking me on a tour of an outdoor shopping center.  I had been really tired as we had been out for over two hours already and had asked if her if I could take a quick sitting break.  At this point, she said this proverb to me.  I asked her where she had heard it from and she told me that her friend had told her that phrase when he was trying to inspire her to exercise more.

I further asked her what the phrase meant to her.  She replied that when she first heard it, she just took on a biological interpretation of it.  In her words, she said, “People who exercise do actually live longer.”  However, after further pondering it, she felt like it was good spiritual motto for how to live her life in which she needs to continually go out or “move” in order to truly take advantage of the thrills and excitement in life. I agree with both of her interpretations of this and feel that it must have originated initially as a phrase to inspire an active lifestyle.