Wednesday, February 12, 2014


     New Year's Eve or oshogatsu is one of Japan's most important and longest holiday.  Although oshogatsu originally referred to the whole month of January, most people associate it with the first three days (sanganichi) of the month.
     On these days, people go to shrines and temples, spend time with friends and family, and eat special New Year's Eve dishes. 
     Throughout these days, the bustling Japanese economy practically comes to a standstill.  Schools, companies, and shops close down, and trains, planes and highways are packed as millions make their way to their hometowns or other travel destinations.
     You can see "kadomatsu" (gate pines made from bamboo stalks and pine boughs) standing besides the shuttered entrances of skyscrapers and other businesses. Straw ropes strung with little strips of white paper "shimekazari" hang across the front of parking lots, supermarkets and shopping malls.
     Both kadomatsu and shimekazari are believed to purify the entrance and invite new and fresh life into the home and workplace.  On New Year's Day it is believed that Toshigami, the god of time and fertility, will enter homes and bring good luck for the coming year.
    Traditional New Year's foods are prepared to minimize cooking and household chores during the holiday.  Osechi-ryori, a special selection of food, is prominently featured at most New Year's settings.  This includes seaweed, fishcakes, mashed sweet potatoes with chestnut, simmered burdock root, sweetened black soybeans, and shrimp.  Many of these dishes are sweet, sour, or dried so they can be kept without refrigeration.
     Mochi, a thick, gooey rice cake, is prepared so that it can be served as ozoni (soup with mochi and vegetables) for breakfast, lunch or any other time during the holidays.
     Wishing you and your family, good health, happiness and peace this coming New Year!

Love, Elder and Sister Addington
Delicious Ozoni and Mochi prepared by the Sisters in the Kamiooka Ward
Elder Addington taking his turn at  the traditional New Year's (Motchitsuki) rice pounding ceremony.
The wooden hammers used to 
pound the mochi are quite heavy!

Sisters in the Kamiooka Ward preparing differet sauces and 
toppings to roll the mochi in. We were excited to be 
invited to their ward luncheon and to participate 
in the traditional rice pounding.
Japanese hang rice straw wreaths called 
"Shinekkazari" on their front doors, wishing 
for  peace, prosperity and happiness.  
We followed the example of all our 
neighbors and did the same.

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