Happy new year. Our first New Year spent in Japan, and quite different from Sweden. After trying to celebrate a traditional Swedish Christmas (something that was quite unsuccessful, since my wife are very particular about what she eats and the range of pickled herring anyway is very limited) we decided to try to do a proper Japanese New Year celebration, just the two of us. Three. This included buying rat figurines (or mouses – I am still unsure if this is the year of the rat or the mouse), decorating the entrance, flavouring sake with a teabag-like bag of herbs smelling like medicine, and preparing for the traditional New Year’s food.
I love the food, I love the decorations, I love the feeling of celebrating the new year with my wife and our baby, who I could feel moving happily in my wife’s stomach as we kissed at midnight. I love all of this, but yet, what fascinated me most was not the mysterious tastes of the food, not all the people queuing outside the shrines on January 1, but rather as always my wife’s ability to make subtle small things, traditions and words, feel like they are the most important and beautiful in the world. How she decorated the food, the manner in which she was pouring me the flavoured sake. And especially the way she was talking about saying happy new year.
During new year in Japan, people meet and say akemeashite omedetou, explained my wife with a tenderness that made the hairs on my arms stand up – when words may be scarce, or when families meet a few days once a year if not less, simple words seem to be filled with such weight, such charge. Such warmth. That warmth I keep inside me for this year, and want to share with you too.
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