After my time in Japan I make a concerted effort to ensure we honour and celebrate certain events that are important to us as a family, such as Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) and it seems other traditions have stuck too as I spent 30th December cleaning the house from top to bottom in preparation for Oshogatsu, New Year.
The neighbours probably wonder why I have removed our Christmas wreath and replaced it with something that looks less festive but it’s our small way of staying connected to Japan and the customs that we have adopted.
My first Christmas and New Year in Japan were a real culture shock, my partner at the time had to go to work on Christmas day, so I went for a boozy lunch with friends that weren’t working and did a Secret Santa gift exchange before heading home. It was a rather odd day given I wouldn’t usually see my friends on the 25th as it’s always been a family day but in Japan it’s more of a date day for young couples and families enjoy some KFC take-out in place of a roast turkey.
On the other hand, here in the UK New Year’s Eve is a night out with friends to see in the New Year and January 1st is usually spent nursing a hangover, whereas New Year’s day in Japan is a family day. Many go to bed early to wake up and watch the first sunrise of the New Year instead of staying up late to see in the New Year and a special feast called Osechi is prepared or bought and served in elaborate lacquer boxes.
I still remember my first NYE in Japan, my partner and I had ventured into Yokohama with some friends for dinner and some karaoke and stopped off at a shrine on the way home for Hatsumode, the first visit of the year in order to make wishes, say a prayer and purchase a lucky charm. Unlike UK church events I experienced as a youngster the Buddhist shrine was alive and almost festival like with such great energy and food vendors selling snacks and drinks…I recall thinking a year ago I was waiting for my kebab (minus the meat) after a night out in town and there I was eating oden and drinking Amazake, basically alcoholic rice pudding!
As a mummy that hasn’t had a mad NYE out for a few years I no longer have to queue up in the cold to get into a club or wait for ages to get a taxi home as my OH and I tend to enjoy a nice meal at home and indulge in some bubbles and wine to see in the New Year from the comfort of our sofa.
2019 is here and with no hangover to nurse I was happy when Little Miss said she wanted to drive out to Mottisfont, a National Trust property, for a family walk.
It was lovely to see so many other families out and about with their four legged friends enjoying the mild weather and fresh air. The decorations around the grounds and nature’s own contributions made it feel very festive and a wonderful place to spend the first day of the New Year.
Little Miss is always keen to complete the children’s trail around the grounds, a master stroke by the National Trust to get kids walking around enjoying the great outdoors without complaining. Mizu isn’t allowed to venture into all areas of the grounds to find the trail clues but was happy to wait with me and do a little people watching.
I see New Year as a time to reflect on the year before and be thankful for all the good in my life, but of course it’s also a time to look forward and focus on new beginnings, which even nature reminds us to do as you look around and see new life and colours emerging from the the stark surroundings.
So on that note I would like to wish you a very happy 2019, I hope it brings all you wish for, and let the fun, good friends and good times wash away anything that doesn’t bring you joy…