What are your New Year’s traditions?


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.

P1010986And 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?

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7 Responses to “What are your New Year’s traditions?”

  1. David Jackson January 2, 2013 at 5:05 am #

    Maybe the absence of tradition is my tradition. If warm out, play golf. Following the logic you cited it would likely mean I will play golf well for the whole year :) If cold, play video games all day. Because once a kid always a kid. One tradition that I match up with well is no cleaning of any kind on New Year’s Day.

    Not a bad first wave! Mine will likely be February… after a year of trying to get home for a few days I might finally make it. Can’t wait.

  2. Katie Wiser January 2, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    I’m from the South, and my family always has black eyed peas for good luck in the New Year. Why, I’m not sure, but it’s just what we’ve always done! (My grandfather would always put a dime in after cooking the peas, and whoever ended up with it was supposed to have extra good luck.)

  3. M January 2, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Holle Cat!
    The only traditions we do is eat ozoni for breakfast on New Years Day and have the family and relatives over for lunch.

  4. M January 2, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    And eat Nishime.

  5. Surfing at Sixty January 2, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Go to the Aiea Taiheiji Buddist Temple for the 9:00 am New Years service and stop by the Izumo Taisha Shrine near chinatown for blessing and getting alot of good luck charms. We should get the south shore blessed for a better year of surfing!

  6. uncleb January 2, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    Go to my Aunt’s house on NYE to eat sushi and home made crispy won ton. Then go home and get soba. NY day, eat kinako mochi.

  7. rayboyjr January 2, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Hey Cat … wow … we’re already on the 2nd day of the New Year!!! … seems like yesterday was Christmas … just goes to show life stops for nothing or no one …

    … as for New Year traditions … I have few … I’m not sure why I started, but it was probably from my mom … for reasons that has evolved into something different than what she told me long ago …

    … like you, I wash my car and clean the house near the end of the year … I’ll do it even near midnight if I have to … for me, among other things it mostly symbolizes starting the New Year on a fresh clean slate …

    … right before midnight, I’ll open all the windows and lights in my house … to allow any lingering bad spirits in my home to find their way out of the house …

    … and not to spend money on the first day of the year … so I won’t be spending a lot of money throughout the year …

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