Stepping into the New Year, Embracing Childhood Memories

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.

Love is Kind artwork

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!

2020 New Year


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.

two birds flying


Sarah Stevenson

Kay, Happy New Year! I enjoyed reading your post so much. I also moved to the US when I was 10 years old. I moved from Australia a week before Thanksgiving and had never experienced a holiday like it. Christmas and New Years were also different for me as in Australia it is summer not winter during that time. Back when I was little the holidays were less commercialized than they are now and celebrations were much different. Thank you for sharing! I have not chosen a word of the year since 2017. My word for this year is: ABUNDANCE! Being open to allow positivity, joy, success and passion to surround me and my family in our journey. I wish you abundance as well!


Hi Sara, thanks for your message. I’m glad you resonated with the New Year’s post. I’m glad that you picked a word. Abundance…yes, this word will bring opportunities your way. Talking about your home country Australia, I am sick about what’s happening to the animals. Do you think we can do a group (Expansive Artists) fundraising effort to help the animals? I’m very serious about this. Please let me know if you are interested.


Hi Kay, I enjoyed this post very much! Hearing of your childhood memories and dedication to them is inspiring. My word for 2020 is mindful. I will be mindful of my creativity, community and myself.


Paula, thank you for sharing your word, MINDFUL…I love it! It will help you to remember to give back to yourself, the people around you. It will also help you to create art with meaning. Wish I could get to know you better. I admire you for the thoughtful and kind ways that you interact with your online community. Wishing you the best in 2020.

Joe Greengard

Wonderful way to start the New Tea. I like “in with the new and out with the old,” even for breathing when I have been very ill.
Happy New Year.


Hi Joe, thank you for your comment on the post. I agree with you… I think it’s important to have a new beginning every year.