Osechi and New Year
The origins of the “osechi” are linked to the traditional and seasonal festivals around the year. They are the place where humans share a meal with Gods and Spirits to thank and honor them. It is also the case for the New Year feast when people thank those deities for the past year and ask protection for the forthcoming one.
The Ancient Gods or Toshigami are said to live in the countryside. There, at the New Year, people contact them for begging them good omen for the annual events such as protecting crops and getting abundant harvests, or staying healthy. In Japan, New Year celebration is usually a family affair: each family gathers on its homeland for feasting. During this feast, “osechi” is eaten. The role of “osechi ryouri” (osechi cuisine) is to welcome each year the Ancient Gods and Spirits that visit a family.
Preparation of the New Year Celebration in Japan
Here how a typical Japanese family prepares the New Year celebration :
- “Tokozari”: decorations displayed in the tokonoma or alcove in the Japanese living room
- “Kagamimochi”: “Mochi” – punded rice speciality – conveys meaning “having strength” as offering. “Kagami” means mirror in Japanese and it is said that the Ancient Gods come from it. It is usually displayed in the tokonoma with other decorations that also aim for getting luck, good health and other.
- “Toso”: it is a medical sake reserved for the New Year that cures pains and sins.
- “Zoni”: a healthy soup that gives power for the forthcoming year. As its composition is deeply related to the local vegetables, this meal is a sign of respect for one’s own land and helps protecting the family on this land.
- “Osechi”: dishes packed in “jubako” to share with the deities. Therefore they all convey a special meaning.
Finallly, to greet the Toshigami you need a great decorated room with hanging scroll, bamboos arranged as willows, “kagamimochi” … To clear the past year an to welcome the New Year with your family, you drink a cup of “toso”, prepare a good “zoni” and get a good “osechi” set with a dish reserved for the Gods.