My childhood memories of the year-end traditions, while growing up in Kyushu, Japan always flood my mind this time of the year.
I went through culture shock when I arrived in America at the age of eleven and saw how differently people in America celebrated the coming of the new year. Lively new year’s eve parties, waking up late on January first and watching football games on TV while munching on various party foods was so foreign to me.
The older I get, the more I cherish my childhood memories and the tradition of “starting new with a fresh mindset.” It’s such a good feeling to get enough sleep and rise early on January first, refreshed and ready to face the coming year.
My favorite thing about celebrating the New Year in Japan was to dress up in a colorful kimono and visit the nearby temple. I wrote my wishes for the coming year on a piece of rice paper and hung them on the large tree that stood in the temple’s ground. I can still remember the birds on the branches and few stray cats who came up to me asking to be fed.
New Years Memories Growing Up in Kokura
Starting at the first of December, Mother would say, “Keiko, we are going through each room in our house to clean every nook and corner. Here’s a check-list so be a good girl and do your part.” Without an argument, I helped Mother clean all the shoji-screens, de-cluttered the drawers in every room and scrubbed marks off the walls.
Mother’s To-Do list for me read like this:
- Do you owe anybody money? Pay it back.
- Did you say mean words to any of your friends? Apologize.
- Did you mean to do a kind act for someone? If not, do it now.
- Do you have any unfinished homework or projects? Complete them.
- Did you think about what you will do in the coming year to become a better person? Write them down and bring them with you when we go to visit the temple.
After I finished my to-do list, it was time to relax and enjoy the coming of the new year on the evening of December 31. Mother and I sat in our clean house and enjoyed eating a traditional bowl of buckwheat noodles topped with grated mountain potatoes. While the slippery noodles went down our throats, we listened to the faraway sounds of the temple bells as it rang out the exact number of the year we were about to enter.
Mother said, “Keiko, soba noodles are the last to enter your stomach this year. This is cleansing. You will start out the new year with a clean body and a clear mind.”
I loved getting up early on New Year’s Day. Mother dressed me in a colorful kimono and we visited the temple and prayed for a good year so we would have the fortune to maintain good relationships, health and wealth. After that, we went home, ready to have fun playing children’s games with the neighborhood children and eating traditional New Year’s food which Mother prepared.
Japanese new years is called Shogatsu, that lasted for three days (Jan 1st – 3rd).
I still take this tradition seriously and try my best to follow through as much as I can with the list my Mother made for me.
Why not try to follow this list, or something similar, for yourself? I guarantee it will make you feel so much better. Out with the old and in with the new!
Here we are, entering a new year plus a new decade. What’s on your mind? One thing for sure, the year will slip by quickly without any results if we don’t create INTENTIONS. Don’t let your coming year slip by without a plan. Let’s all make sure that joy and happiness are infused in each day of 2020!
Word of the Year
This is the word I chose for 2020. I don’t want to keep struggling upstream. I want to enter every decision I make and everything I do to have a smooth, flowing energy.
Did you choose your word for this year? Please share it with me in the comment section below.