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New Year’s Traditions

New Year’s Eve is overrated.  Well at least the New Year’s Eves that you have to pay way too much money to go out and you wear a pretty party dress, only to get spilled on and to end up cold and cranky as you try to find a cab at the end of the night.  We’ve also tried New Year’s Eve other  ways, like hosting parties, going to other friends houses.  But those have always been hit or misses as well,  usually because they required a lot of running around and stress trying to put together the perfect meal and at the end of the night I always felt like going to sleep way earlier than everyone else did or not wanting to sleep over wherever we were.  Both of these endings also resulted in me being cranky, and who wants to be cranky to start off the New Year?

For the last few New Year’s Eves we have found a very good formula, or at least tagged on to a tradition that’s been going on for many many years.  But if something’s good, easy and works, why wouldn’t we want to be included?

So to ring in this new decade, we went to watch “The Fighter” (which was excellent), followed by indulgence in lobsters.  True to tradition, the boys went down to the beach to get some ocean water, which is said to make all the difference when cooking the lobsters.

My feisty lobster, waiting to be my last meal of 2010.

The water is boiled and the lobsters are put into a huge Chinese steamer.

This beautiful lobster was the perfect meal to end a year of eating well.

I woke up early on New Year’s morning as the sun was just coming out.  The light was so beautiful and I wanted to capture the light.  It was really cold out and I drove around trying to find my “perfect shot”.  I never got the angle I really wanted and ended up at the water, but enjoyed wandering alone on the beach.  I love being able to look around my city and feel such joy because I live here.

New Year’s Day, or O-shogatsu as it’s called is one of the most important celebrations in the Japanese culture.  I remember when I was a kid, my family would pack into the car and visit friends and family.  At every home we’d visit, there’d be lavish spreads of interesting Japanese foods, mostly served in lacquered boxes.  When my dad was still working at JTB, he’d bring home these beautiful boxes, (osechi-ryori) filled with prepared fish, meats and vegetables all thoughtfully and colourfully presented.

The history is that the osechi  is eaten over the first few days of the New Years when shops were closed.  The foods that typically make up the osechi are prepared in advance and then kept in a cool place so they don’t spoil.  The food items that make up a traditional osechi have symbolism for prosperity, good fortune and health.

My mom’s oshechi has some traditional elements to it, but thankfully she just makes our favorites as some of the items that are usually included aren’t as tasty as they look.

Kazunoko, (3 ways in this box) symbolizes the wish to be gifted with numerous children in the New Year, (*hint hint*, I guess).

The kuro-mame (sweet black beans) symbolize health, the kinpira gobo (burdock root) for luck, and the kombu (seaweed) for joy.

Mom made shrimp, zucchini and mushroom tempura as well.

For my family’s  New Year’s Day dinner, we’ve also started our own tradition of temaki sushi and shabu shabu, (Japanese hot pot).

All the makings for some great temaki sushi (cones).

I made myself 2 cones. I cheat though and only use a tiny bit of rice so I have more room to fill my cones with the “good stuff”.

After all of this, the pots are put on to boil for the shabu shabu.  Make no doubt about it, we eat a lot of food to start our New Year off.

Happy New Year, and all the best for 2011!

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