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Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!
Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

In other words, Happy New Year!

And so the family gathers on the first morning of the new year , to wish each other a happy new year, to drink a toast of sake (three sips to drain your sake cup, but you get to choose the size of your cup!), and to sample the osechi ryori, which is special New Year foods.

This osechi will remain on the table for the next several days, the tradition being that no food can be prepared during the New Year holidays.The one exception to this no-cooking rule is ozoni, the miso soup with mochi (pounded stickly rice cakes), which is always a favorite with kids but manages to kill a few dozen folk, mostly elderly, every year. (The very adhesive mochi gets stuck in their throats.)

In the past, osechi was prepared by the housewife, but these days, the vast majority of it is bought already prepared.

What does osechi consist of? Everything in all manner of shapes and combinations: rice, various fish, shrimp, seaweed, fish roe, potatoes of various types, burdock root, lotus root, various Japnese vegetables, and eggs, as well as numerous items that, even after 18 years of eating osechi, I still can't identify. Great eating, though...

Here Calvin has just sipped his New Year sake (yes, kids drink it, too!) and is pondering the year it was made and the quality of the mash.

Brian did not care for his sake. Michelle inhaled hers and demanded more.

Some years ago, when Calvin was about Michelle's age (16 months), we went to a friend's housewarming party. At one point in the evening, I was sitting on the couch holding Calvin on my lap when Yoko walked up, silently handed me a paper cup containing a clear liquid, and walked away. I assumed that it was water for Calvin and proceeded to feed it to him. From the way he chugged it down, he was obviously quite thirsty. He was nearing the bottom of the cup when Yoko let out a scream that stopped the party cold. You guessed it, that was sake in the cup. Strangely enough, it didn't seem to affect him in the least. I mean, he always smiled that way, didn't he?

Brian has speared his mochi (sticky rice cake) on his fork and is doing battle with it. Both Kouji and Grandma Kariya are apparently amazed at his rather untraditional mochi eating technique. Hey, whatever works, right?


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