The end of one year and the beginning of the next is surrounded with many traditions involving celebrations and food.
Perhaps you’re accustomed as I have been, to heading downtown to watch a few fireworks, or joining your family around the television to watch the ball come down in Time Square on New Year’s Eve, or a quiet dinner party with friends and a glass of bubbly and best wishes for the new year.
Or, following any of those up with a New Year’s Day dinner of pork and sauerkraut or some other dish that traditionally speaks to good luck in the new year.
An extended stay with family in Hawaii gave me a window into several cultural traditions other than those I am familiar with.
Allow me to share my sampling of experiences with you.
On the island of Oahu, fireworks, sparklers, anything that makes noise, is the order of the day. Many communities across other states in America celebrate on December 31/January 1 with fireworks. On Oahu, many families celebrate with noisemaking and bright lights in front of their home before midnight. I was told this tradition is to frighten away any bad spirits and bring good luck as we moved into the New Year.
At midnight, the sky was bright in every direction and the sound of so many fireworks was amazing. I was advised about 10 o’clock not to leave the family party until after midnight because the smoke from fireworks across the valleys would make driving difficult.
That was good advice. As we drove to our home at two a.m., the haze continued to waft through the air. Hopefully, any bad luck was sent on its way along with the Tradewinds.
In Hawaii, I was introduced to a soup called ozoni. Home cooks prepare the broth, and usually it has simmered at least a day. I was told ozoni is a traditional Japanese soup and should be eaten immediately after midnight New Year’s Eve, the first food eaten as the New Year begins. It symbolizes prosperity and good health.
Every home cook has their own recipe for ozoni, but I was served clear broth that had been simmering a full day, mochi (a pounded rice), green vegetables and some seafood.
Staying on Oahu through mid-January, I was also given a sampling of the tradition and celebration of the Chinese New Year.
When picking up my granddaughter from school a few weeks ago, I was greeted by a teacher and my granddaughter offering me a cup of tea. I was taught how to hold the cup with two hands, as well as a specific phrase to use in acknowledgement.
Traditionally, each younger generation serves the next older generation. When children are serving, they are generally rewarded by the older generation with a small token or gift.
As our first month of the new year is now behind us, I leave you with my smattering of experience and understanding of additional traditions that look towards a year of prosperity and well-being.
Do you celebrate any tradition that promotes good luck and prosperity in the new year? What foods are important to you as the calendar turns over another year, be it 2023 and/or the year of the rabbit?