The New Year Meeting

Every year on January 1, I visit my mother at her house. She lives alone after my father’s death. As she was born in the Year of the Cow, she will be 84 years old. Many of the relatives come together; my children, two younger brothers, their wives, some of cousins and their children. My mother prepared special dishes for this meeting. She cooked them alone while she was young, but, recently, some of her granddaughters help her.

The New Year’s meal is cooked in old style. The most special thing is zôni, soup with rice cake. In some districts they use clear soup as a base, while in other districts soup with miso, soybean paste. Contents of soup also have local variety. The menu of mother’s side seems to be inherited. As the mother of mother of my mother was from Kyoto, so my mother’s zôni is in Kyoto style. She puts several kinds of vegetables and tôfu, soybean curd, in soup with white miso. It tastes a little bit sweet.

Other than soup, she prepared many dishes; herring roe, boiled beans, baked or boiled fishes, etc. Everything is very traditional. Some of them have symbolic meanings. Dried small fishes were once used as manure, and symbolize rich crops. Mame, beans, are symbols of health, mame, and diligence, mame, because of assonance. Herring roe is a symbol of fertility.

Usually they drink sake, rice wine. We are allowed to drink from morning in New Year holidays. Fortunately or unfortunately, a god of medicine told me not to drink some years ago. If the god were blind, I would drink. He, however, has very good eyesight. Gazing on drunken people, I just take many cups of tea.

After exchanging greetings of the New Year, we had a long chat about everything. Some of them meet each other only in this opportunity. Anyway, this is a very important day for us.