|Osechi – Japanese Traditional Food for New Years.|
Osechi-ryōri (御節料理 or お節料理) is a Japanese traditional selection of food that is served cold on New Year’s Day. The tradition started in the Heian Period (794-1185). Traditionally, women of the family get together and spend two to three days before New Year’s preparing the food.
This is a time for women of the household to work together towards a common goal and to catch up on the passing year in an informal setting.
In modern Japan, a large amount of families buy large bento box style Osechi from local merchants or online. The bento box for Osechi is called a jūbako (重箱). Purchasing Osechi can be quite expensive as Osechi is a delicacy and contains a wide variety of rare dishes that take a lot of time to prepare.
As you would imagine with Japan, branding is important; therefore, Osechi can vary in price from $100 for a small Osechi box from a non brand merchant to up to $1000 or more depending on volume and which merchant you purchase your Osechi from.
The dishes that make up osechi each have a special meaning celebrating the New Year. Some examples are:
Daidai (橙), Japanese bitter orange. Daidai means “from generation to generation” when written in different kanji as 代々. Like kazunoko below, it symbolizes a wish for children in the New Year.
Datemaki (伊達巻 or 伊達巻き), sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish paste or mashed shrimp. They symbolize a wish for many auspicious days. On auspicious days (晴れの日, hare-no-hi), Japanese people traditionally wear fine clothing as a part of enjoying themselves. One of the meanings associated with the second kanji includes “fashionability,” derived from the illustrious dress of the samurai from Date Han.
Kamaboko (蒲鉾), broiled fish cake. Traditionally, slices of red and white kamaboko are alternated in rows or arranged in a pattern. The color and shape are reminiscent of Japan rising sun, and have a celebratory, festive meaning.
Tazukuri (田作り), dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. The literal meaning of the kanji in tazukuri is “rice paddy maker,” as the fish were used historically to fertilize rice fields. The symbolism is of an abundant harvest.
Zōni (雑煮), a soup of mochi rice cakes in clear broth (in eastern Japan) or miso broth (in western Japan).