Our New Year’s traditions tend to center around food.
Are you surprised?
It’s a tradition in our family to do two things: eat Hawaiian food on the eve, eat ozoni and sushi on the first day of the year.
The Hawaiian food started when I was a kid — maybe even before that — when our Hawaiian neighbors would trade dinners with us. We’d get the Hawaiian spread they had just made and we’d give them whatever we were having, which was usually baked ham and nishime, a sort of Japanese stew.
But the ozoni and sushi, that’s not as circumstantial.
It’s a Japanese custom to eat ozoni, a Japanese dish flavored by dashi and contains mochi, leafy veggies, shiitake mushrooms, carrots and daikon. (We don’t put in chicken or pork, like other families.) My mom makes the same ozoni her mother made — and we’re pretty sure grandma learned this from her mom, too.
Truth be told, just about everyone I know who’s Japanese — and some who aren’t — eat ozoni on New Year’s Day. And most of us probably don’t know why.
After some research last year, I learned that the soup symbolizes strength and prosperity — and that everything else on the table, from umeboshi (sake or Japanese rice wine) to renkon (lotus root) meant something, too. The idea is if you eat these things, you’ll gain good fortune, health, happiness or success throughout the year.
But it’s not only the Japanese who have holiday-specific superstitions.
First off all, Americans kiss at midnight. Why? Supposedly, the purpose of the kiss is to bring good luck to the relationship that year. No kiss means no affection.
Pork is also a common dish on American tables during New Year’s. The reason? Pigs root forward when they eat, so pork symbolizes prosperity. (Chickens, who scratch in the dirt, represent “scratching” for money all year.)
Some people believe you have to stock up your pantries and pay all of your bills before the end of the year to ensure a smooth, prosperous and stress-free year to come.
Don’t wash dishes or clothes on New Year’s Day, according to some. It could lead to the death of a family member in the new year. And don’t take anything out of the house, including trash. It’s bad luck, too.
There are so many different traditions, customs and superstitions surrounding New Year’s, from men walking into homes first to refraining from working on the first day of the year.
And it seems people have their own special traditions, like my family’s Hawaiian food dinner on the eve. Derek and I always clean the house and car on the eve and catch the first wave of the new year in Waikiki; that’s our little tradition. (That’s me catching my first wave of the new year yesterday.)
I know people who write lists of regrets, then burn them at midnight. I know others want to see the first sunrise of the year, climbing Makapuu or even the Koko Head tracks to get the best views.
I love that people make plans to do something special on New Year’s. That’s what makes it so meaningful.
So what are your New Year’s traditions? And, most importantly, why do you do it?