In Japan, the country celebrates the New Year with "osechi" - basically, a wide and varied array of different special foods that are traditionally prepared for the celebration annually, and take a lot of time and patience to prepare.
For Japanese expats living in the United States, the osechi tradition is not an easy one to uphold, due to the huge amount of ingredients required, that can be both difficult to source, and expensive. There is also a time issue. In Japan, people have a much longer holiday from work over New Year, so there is more time to prepare these many elaborate dishes.
Working Together to Solve Problems
So, Japanese expats in many cities across the US have come up with a wonderful way to engage their local Japanese expat communities and help them to uphold their wonderful and unique New Year tradition. The idea is to have an osechi sharing network in each community. Every person involved cooks a large amount of just one or two of the osechi dishes, and then can trade portions of their dishes in return for portions of other traditional dishes, allowing each family to end up with a wide variety of osechi for a much cheaper price, with a lot of added convenience too!
Osechi dishes vary from broiled fish cakes and skewered shrimp, to mushrooms and roast beef and sweet chestnuts, to name but a few. Residents who have moved to the US from Japan report that the sharing program brings back the fun to the osechi preparations, as well as establishing a great atmosphere of celebration and get-togethers in their local expat community.This past New Year saw about 19 people engaging in the swapping program on the outskirts of Boston, a huge leap from the 9 who joined in last year, showing that more and more people are getting on board with this great idea.
Breathing New Life into Old Traditions
In Anchorage, the Japanese community who have moved there have been engaging in such a program for around 4 years now. It is an affordable way for these expats to actually feel like they are having a similar celebration to the one they would have enjoyed back in Japan, and residents in Anchorage cite the osechi swapping parties as excellent ways to raise spirits in the dark, cold Alaskan winter.
Members of these programs just hope to have them spread farther and wider in years to come to keep this beautiful tradition alive, even while they are settled abroad.