The Hawaiian food tradition started with our neighbors, a Hawaiian family, would kill and imu a pig and make a feast of foods including poi, lau lau, chicken long rice and lomi salmon. They would bring a box full of food for us on New Year’s and we’d take them a whole ham and baked beans.
Then we would eat ozoni soup, 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.
But what’s the significance for New Year’s?
“I have no idea,” my mom said.
So I did a little Google research. Turns out I can’t get a straight answer anywhere.
The best was the one I found on the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s website:
A Japanese New Year’s feast may include ozoni (a mochi soup) for strength and prosperity, otoso or ochawith umeboshi (sake or Japanese rice wine with herbs or tea with preserved plum) for good health, kazunoko (herring roe) for fertility, kuromame (black beans with chestnuts) for good health and success, kobumaki (seaweed stuffed with chicken, pork or fish tied with gourd strips) for happiness, kurikinton (mashed sweet potato and chestnuts) for good fortune, renkon (lotus root sliced crosswise) as a symbol of the wheel of life, and konbu (seaweed) for long life. It is believed that eating these special foods at the New Year will bring one good fortune during the year.
Of course, it doesn’t explain WHY ozoni is linked to strength and prosperity. The ingredients are healthy, but the dish doesn’t exemplify wealth. In fact, it uses all the foods easy to find in the harsh winter months, when fresh ingredients are likely scarce.
This made me think about all the New Year’s traditions we do — and probably don’t know why. Here are mine:
• Whatever we do on New Year’s Day is what we’ll do for the rest of the year. I hope that’s not true because I surfed the smallest waves ever. And I filled up the gas tank in the Nissan Murano and it cost me nearly $60.
• When you enter a home, the man is supposed to walk in first. If the woman does, it’s considered bad luck.
• Seeing the first sunrise of the year. I didn’t do it this year, but my girlfriend climbed Makapuu and said it was packed. You could’ve turned on music and it would’ve been a block party in downtown.
Anyone know the significance of these traditions? Or anyone got unique traditions of your own?
I’m getting to the bottom of this!
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