New Year's Day is getting very close, and I keep thinking of the Soba-noodle called “toshi-koshi Soba” (literally passing the year soba) that we would eat on New Year’s Eve, and Osechi-Ryori we would have on New Year’s Day. The hype starts months before the New Years with preparation for colorful, whimsical display of wishes for the New Year. You can see some pictures and explanations of each part of Osechi-Ryori and the meanings behind them here.
The article on Savory Japan highlights the significance of Osechi-Ryori during the New Year celebration. “The Japanese believe that New Years is the time to start afresh. Old debts are paid off, arguments are settled, and the whole house is given a good cleaning. Just like other people around the world, we reflect on the past year and resolve to become better human beings in the New Year. This extends to our spiritual life as well. In order to truly start the year in the most positive and pure way possible, all housework and cooking is to be finished by December 31, so that January 1st can be spent enjoying time with family and friends. All but the most vital shops close from December 28 to January 3rd. So, as you can imagine, it takes quite a bit of work and planning to keep a well stocked table. This type of New Years cuisine even has its own name; Osechi-ryori.”
Here is a beautifully illustrated art by Rie Nicheco with ingredients and parts of the Osechi-Ryori. All these ingredients are cooked in advance so they can last for weeks, even months during the busy season. When they are finally ready to be consumed on New Year's Day, they are usually accompanied by Ozoni, a hearty soup with mochi (rice cake) inside.
To balance the rich and intense flavors of Osechi-ryori, what I looked forward to most as a child was Ozoni during the New Year’s holiday. As the link shows, Ozoni base and ingredients can vary quite a bit depending on the region you are in. Where my family is from in the Kanto area, the Ozoni was mostly clear-broth based, with chicken and vegetables added.
Here is a recipe of clear-broth Ozoni, which contains baked mochi and is such a delightful soup on a cold winter day. It is quite easy to make, and your own substitution for broth, vegetables and meat will be acceptable in most cases. Try it out and share in the feeling of starting a brand New Year!
We are excited to find that Merriam-Webster dictionary announced this year's Word of the Year is "Culture"!! Being in the industry that talks about, and promotes cultural understanding and the importance of cultural awareness, it is very exciting to see that the rest of the world is becoming more and more interested in culture and how it affects our lives. The short article on the Merriam-Webster website states, "The term conveys a kind of academic attention to systematic behavior and allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group: we speak of a "culture of transparency" or "consumer culture." This is exactly what Unicultural® training programs focus on, understanding where culture is formed, and how it is displayed in our ideas, efforts and behavior.
We feel this is such an exciting time to be in this industry, where cultural understanding is such a crucial part of globalization, not just the knowledge of "other cultures" but utilizing certain metric tools to move forward in our efforts to understand, relate and connect with pretty much anyone in the world.
We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has supported Hansa One and the Unicultural® trainings, and we hope to continue our cooperation together in the coming years promoting cultural understanding!
It is Friday, World Music Friday!
Today we travel to India, the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world.
The Indian culture often labeled as an amalgamation of several cultures, spans across the Indian subcontinent and is among the world's oldest, reaching back about 5,000 years. Many sources describe it as "Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara" — the first and the supreme culture in the world. Many elements of India's diverse cultures, such as Indian religions, yoga and Indian cuisine, have had a profound impact across the world.
"Unity in diversity" - it is not just another phrase or quotation. But these words are highly applicable to a country like India that is incredibly rich in culture and heritage. A few quotations or statements cannot describe the pedestal that India holds on the world map because of its colorful and unique culture. From the times of Mauryas, Cholas and Mughals to the period of British Empire, India has always been famous for its traditions and hospitality. The warmth in the relations and euphoria in celebrations make the country stand out distinctively. The country's liveliness and generosity attract a number of tourists. The cuisines, festivals, music, literature, and theatre, everything is 'special' in this 'Land of Gods'.
For an Indian, "Namaste" is a common way of greeting outsiders and elders. Both palms placed together and raised below the face not only show the respect for others but it also makes you feel the affection in the greeting others. It is for sure that no 'hello' or 'hi' can create that magic.
Indian people are also famous for welcoming with flower garlands. In Indian marriages, the exchange of garlands between bride and groom is a ritual in itself. People also offer flower garlands to gods and goddesses during their prayers.
Normally, a day in India starts with Surya Namaskar. In this people offer water to the sun and enchant mantras and prayers. Indians worship nature and this is unique about its culture. In Hindu religion, trees and animals are worshipped like gods. People believe in god and keep fast ('vrata') on many festivals. They offer morning's first fresh meal to cow and night's last meal to dog. Nowhere in the world one can find such generosity.
All the religions here start the day with morning hymns and these rich values are inculcated into the kids since childhood. Morning prayers and moral education is also a very important part of the education system in India. Here people are not judged by caste, color or creed. They are judged by their values and this is what makes India a unique place to live.
Allah-Rakha Rahman is an Indian composer, singer-songwriter, music producer, musician and philanthropist. Described as the world's most prominent and prolific film composer by Time magazine, Rahman's works are noted for integrating Eastern classical music with electronic music, world music and traditional orchestral arrangements. Have a little taste with this live performance along with Jordanian singer, Farah Siraj, and Nepalese Buddhist Nun Ani Choying. This song truly brings together diverse cultures and musical genres, enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!
- Alba Serrano-Miro
Unicultural team and trainers, sharing our views and experiences on everything cultural.