Japanese New Year: Good Luck Food And Traditions
Japanese New Year (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important holiday in Japan. It’s centered around food, family, preparing for the new year and leaving the prior year in the past. It’s incredibly important to clean, pay bills, tie up any loose ends and prepare the traditional good luck food in advance of the celebration, which lasts from January 1-3.
A Quiet New Year’s Eve New Year’s Eve, contrary to the champagne cork-popping parties elsewhere in the world, is a very quiet evening in Japan. It makes sense that after weeks of planning and cleaning, one might just want to collapse in front of the TV to watch Japanese entertainment shows featuring J-pop and other performances.
Toshikoshi soba is the traditional last meal of the year. Soba noodles are served warm with broth or dipping sauce that can be bought pre-made, if necessary. Slice some scallions and nori (seaweed) and call it a day. Toshikoshi means “to kill off the year” and the long noodles symbolize longevity. It’s such a simple meal to prepare that I’m sure households across the country breathe a huge sigh of relief.
After the meal, some families venture out to hear Buddhist temple bells ring 108 times at midnight. Buddhists believe that man has 108 temptations to overcome before reaching nirvana. It’s thought that ringing the bells at the start of the New Year will help free our souls of these temptations in the coming year. It’s a purification or cleansing, of sorts.