In Japan there are many foods that have some sort of meaning behind them.
One of them is Ozoni. Ozoni is a hearty mochi soup that is eaten all around Japan during New Year. If it is New Year, there will be Ozoni. It is considered to be one of the most popular and important dishes of Osechi Ryori or traditional Japanese New Year foods. Depending on the household, the way Ozoni is prepared can be very different. It can be slightly sweeter, saltier or very light flavored.
It is said that Ozoni originated from farmers. Farmers used to pray that their crops would grow properly and show appreciation for getting through the year. Praying that next year their family will be safe and that more crops will grow to provide for the family.
This idea of gratefulness and thankfulness has further deepened the roots of Japanese people and is celebrated till this day.
All Ozoni are done a bit differently depending on the region you are in, but it will always include mochi. Mochi is always included because it is said that farmers in the past have prepared mochi to serve the God’s as a welcome and to show appreciation for the coming of the New Year and also to show what they have been able to grow from the past year. The mochi is given to the God’s and then it is returned back as leftovers”おさがり Osagari” which means the food that the God has left so that is why people eat Ozoni with mochi and celebrate New Year.
Another traditional Japanese event to celebrate the New Year is Toshi-koshi soba.
For those of you that do not know what soba is, it is a very popular type of noodle that is loved by many, eaten all year around and easily available nationwide. It is made of buckwheat flour, about as thick as spaghetti and served either hot or cold.
On New Year’s Eve, it is almost a custom for the Japanese to look back on the past year and welcome the coming year while enjoying a bowl of hot soba. But why soba? Why not something more extravagant or filling for the stomach as it is a celebration of a new year and a new beginning ? The meaning given behind the tradition of eating soba is why this has been going on for generations and generations.
There are a few reasons as to why it is soba. Soba can stretch and it gets long and this symbolizes a long life for your well-being. It also has the meaning of a long lasting relationship within the family. Another meaning it has is that the Toshi-koshi soba is deliberately made to be easily torn and ripped apart.This is because it means to cut off the struggles that were faced from the year and move on and step into the new year. In some toshi-koshi soba there are golden flakes sprinkled on top for good luck and good fortune in the next year.
Japanese people have been putting messages behind the food they eat to show their appreciation of life, the farmers and the people who have been involved in creating the food that they are able to eat now.