I have loved New Year’s Day since I was a child.
I would usually wake up to a sunny New Year’s Day and that was enough to excite me.
Just yesterday, the household was chaotic, with everyone hustling to clean and decorate, and preparing osechi ryori (traditional New Year foods).
However, today, it is peaceful. The air is fresh and somewhat relaxed.
“The new year has come!”
I would jump out of my futon with joy.
My parents would be in their kimonos and my mother would be busy in the kitchen wearing a white overall apron.
Flowers were arranged beautifully in the purified house.
My father who would usually be rushing to work would be sitting in his chair reading the thick newspaper.
It was an exciting sight for a child.
Helping my mother carry the large the multi-tiered lacquer food boxes and sake cups to the table, I could smell my mother’s ozoni*.
The aroma of chicken and burdock roots in a clear soup confirmed that “New Year’s Day has really come.”
I could not be happier.
“How many mochi (sticky rice cakes) would you like?”
Some conversations are unique to New Year’s Day.
It was a joy to help out, putting the mominori (toasted and crushed dried laver seaweed) and dried bonito flakes for the ozoni in small bowls.
Even now, I don’t make ozoni often, although it is a favorite dish,
Perhaps because I wish to keep it a special New Year’s treat.
Perhaps I should say that ozoni is not to be eaten throughout the year without reason.
When the table was set, all four of us would sit at the table and raise our cups in celebration.
“Happy New Year!”
This was the moment when my New Year ecstasy peaked.
New Year’s Day was such a special day.
Then, I would start savoring each New Year’s dish one by one.
Time has gone by, and I now welcome the new year alone.
However, I still make it a rule to have a small kagamimochi** and to prepare osechi ryori and ozoni to celebrate the new year.
On January 2, I engage in kakizome, or the first calligraphy of the year.
I should not forget to draw a treasure ship to have a good first dream.
I admit I do find it a bit lonely to welcome the new year alone,
However, I have enough happy memories from my past New Year’s Days to keep me positive.
*a bowl of soup with miscellaneous ingredients such as vegetables, seafood, meats and sticky rice cakes, according to the region, often served on New Year’s Day.
** a traditional Japanese New Year decoration, usually consisting of two round mochi rice cakes, the smaller placed on the larger, and a daidai orange with leaf on top
Illustrated and written by Emiko Hirano
Illustrator and essayist. Born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1961 and raised in Yokohama. Has published many illustrations and essays on mountain hiking, travels and lifestyles.
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