Japanese New Year Food Traditions - Osechi Ryori (お節料理)
Japanese new year
In most Western countries, Christmas is the day you spend with your family and New Years is just a big celebration and an excuse to get drunk. But here in Japan, it's the other way around. So the days leading up to New Year's for many Japanese is very important and consist of many different traditions. They write numerous of New Year's cards (nengajou, 年賀状) to those who have affected them in some way the past year, they go through a massive cleaning process called "osouji" (think Spring cleaning but in the winter) so that they start the new year "clean and pure", and then after New Year's, they eat a dish with a very deep meaning called "osechi ryori" (お節料理).
Traditional New Years Celebration in Japan
Osechi ryori (お節料理) is essentially a platter of small dishes that each hold a special meaning that the Japanese treasure to bring them luck and good health in the new year. The tradition behind osechi ryori is said to go back as far as the Heian period (794-1185). It was essentially a special dish that was offered to various deities and also those those of high royal class, now it is a way to mark the new year. Each region and household in Japan has their own version of osechi ryori, but normally they are served in special lacquer boxes that resemble bento boxes called jubako (重箱) and are stunning. Often they will be in tiers of 2-3 and each box will have different dishes. Some of the things you will find in osechi are black means (黒豆) are meant to be a symbol of health, herring roe (数の子; kazunoko) wishing to bring many children, eating the sweet chestnut dumplings (栗きんとん; kurikinton) is meant to bring financial prosperity, and sardines (田作り; tatsukuri) is said to be a symbol of good harvest.
Most osechi ryori can be a bit pricey, but if you happen to come across one we recommend you try so you can experience one of Japan's New Year's celebrations! We hope everyone had a great 2018 and are looking forward to what 2019 has to offer!! And if you are looking for something traditional to finish the year, be sure to eat soba! It is tradition to finish the year with soba, and start it with osechi ryori in Japan!
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