Traditional New Year's Eve in Japan
New Year's Eve in Japan is called, "Oomisoka" and the typical Japanese family will get together and eat what is called "Toshikoshi soba" at night.
2011 is the Year of the Rabbit
Toshikoshi soba is much like regular soba except the noodles are longer - and I eat them sitting down - not like my usual "Tachigui soba" (standing and eating soba).
The custom of Toshikoshi soba was started in Shimo-Kitazawa in Tokyo during the Edo period about 150 years ago.
The reasons for eating soba on New Year's eve are generally thought of as:
a) One strand of soba is long so eating it represents a long life
b) Soba is easy to cut so biting off one strand of soba represents cutting off the last year and the misfortune that came along with it.
b) One more reason is that, long ago, craftsmen who used silver and gold for making art and wares would have to gather up the gold and silver dust from the floors of their shops. Raw soba was used like a sort of putty to pick up the gold dust. Once the dust was picked up, the soba was boiled or cooked and the gold and silver dust were easily separated from the soba.
Some families will eat the soba while listening to the bells ringing in nearby temples all around Japan. The bell ringing on New Year's Eve is called, "Joya no Kane" and the bells will ring 108 times before midnight. In Buddhist religion, the bells ringing 108 times represent all 108 of human desires. By ringing the bells once for each desire, we can cleanse our hearts and souls and head into the new year free and clean from our worldly desires that keep us from the higher ground.
Toshikoshi soba and crab... Ummmm!
I wish you all could share in a taste of our soba and enjoy health and a long life. But, since our technology hasn't gotten advanced enough for me to send you soba over the Internet, here is a photo of Toshikoshi soba for New Year's Eve Dec. 31, 2010 and here's a video of the bells ringing:
Also, as I mentioned, 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit. Here's some info on that for you!
If you are interested in Feng Shui and how you can use the ancient Chinese art of design and decoration to increase your luck and happiness in 2011, read this.
For Chinese Horoscope:
General predictions for the Year of the Rabbit
The year of the Rabbit is traditionally associated with home and family, artistic pursuits, diplomacy, and keeping the peace. Therefore, 2011 is very likely to be a relatively calmer one than 2010 both on the world scene, as well as on a personal level.
Conversely, nations will also become more insular and increasingly lock down their borders to protect against the "other". However, 2011 will also see new art movements projecting a distinct national identity taking the world by storm. Shrewd and creative new business partnerships will also form to the benefit of all.
Rabbits who thrive on delicate business dealings are best suited to navigating the year ahead. Those compatible with the Rabbit — the Sheep, Dog and Pig in particular — will also find 2011's circumstances inspiring them to greater personal happiness and professional success.
Others will suffer, by degree, depending on how flexible they are to the world mood. Those who have cultivated careful negotiation skills (or, perhaps more importantly, can sniff-out and swiftly dodge dangerous situations!), may attain similar good luck enjoyed by rabbits and those compatible with them in 2011.
For more specific information and learn more about what the omens are for your future in the New Year, check out Your Chinese Horoscope for 2011 and find out what else the animals of fortune predict for you in 2011.
Happy New Year of the Rabbit 2011!