My Christmas, New Year, and Oshōgatsu [40/365]

In my last entry I said that I would “talk a bit more about winter vacation things, both UK-style and Japan-style”.

So what did I actually do over the winter vacation?

I was working on Christmas Eve (24th December) but not so late that I couldn’t enjoy what has become a bit of a Miles family tradition and have my parents over for a leg of lamb.

母 / お母さん
(はは) / (おかあさん)
“haha” / “okāsan”

父 / お父さん
(ちち) / (おとうさん)
“chichi” / “otōsan”

I always assumed that the versions of these words with さん (“san”) on the end were more formal because to my ears “haha” and “chichi” sound more like baby-talk than “okāsan” and “otōsan”. Also さん is an honorific, after all. However, it is more complicated than that.

Despite “haha” and “chichi” being only usable if you are talking to/about your own parents (as if they mean “my mother” and “my father”), I learn that those terms (when used appropriately as just described) are considered more formal than the さん versions. I wonder why. Perhaps it has something to do with modesty? I will look into this for a future entry!

Anyway, here are before and after cooking pictures of the lamb. I typically roast it with lots of garlic, oil, and rosemary, and use the fat to glaze the roast potatoes that go with it.

[it] was delicious!!

(Note: putting “katta” on the end of “oishi” changes “delicious” to “was delicious”.)

My oba gave me this roasting dish a few Christmases ago. 叔母 = “oba” = aunt

Earlier in the year when studying kanji I found two characters particularly problematic, and in fact still do.

(various pronunciations depending on context)

(various pronunciations depending on context)

I’m not sure whether they would be used in the same English sense that I used “before and after” just now, but in a future entry I will look at the natural way in Japanese to express “before and after picture”. Perhaps there isn’t one! I will also discuss why I find these characters and concepts particularly awkward – there is a good reason, and it relates to the fact that there are many other interpretations of the above characters; I only gave one each, related to what I was talking about.

For me, the main part of Christmas starts with this lamb meal at my place with my parents and then goes onto Christmas Day (25th) and Boxing Day (26th) at their place where we open presents, eat, drink, and relax: playing games, chatting, watching movies, and calling/Skyping other family members.

Another Miles family food tradition is that on Christmas Day I make a starter of little pieces of fruit on cocktail sticks which is supposed to serve as a palate cleanser before the main roast turkey and trimmings.

Then – because Christmas pudding is BORING – I make profiteroles as an “alternative” dessert. That is what the header image of this entry is! (I did a smaller batch this year, they are a bit tiddly.)

(you can’t really write this in hiragana because the フィ sound doesn’t exist in ひらがな)

little (sometimes used in a cute way a bit like “tiddly” in UK English)

Between then and new year we take things easy. I returned to work for a few days and then had a party at my place on New Years Eve. Here are me and my friends just after midnight.

new year 2019
Two of those people are from DKJP. I wonder if you know who?

We stayed up until 3am that night playing Mahjongg, a game which I have talked about on the blog before.

At the party we wrote “Happy New Year” on my blackboard in a bunch of different languages:

happy new year blackboard
How many do you know?

In the UK New Year’s Day (1st January) is a holiday, so I had that off. However, for me, that is not the end of the winter jollity.

pleasure, merriment

(Note: I’m not sure how common this word is. I looked it up!)

My birthday is January 3rd, so after work that day I went to a restaurant that I like a lot here in Cambridge. I will talk about that another day though, particularly as my mum took some pictures and I don’t have them to post at the moment.

“otanjōbi omedetō gozaimasu”
Happy Birthday!

So how would that all be different if I were living in Japan? Indeed, how was it different when I was living in Japan?

For me, as a teacher, I had a longish vacation in winter which coincided with my students’ time off so really I got to celebrate Christmas as usual. However, I believe typically Christmas is not a holiday in Japan, despite being a popular concept (there is even a custom of families eating Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas time in Japan).

From speaking to my students (especially the adult ones) I learned that the main winter “yasumi” that they had was from the 1st to the 3rd of January.

vacation, rest, break, holiday

New Year [especially the first three days]

There were a few traditions I was told about over this period but by far the most common – and remember that this was coming from 60-80 year olds – was that of a large bowl of shōchū kept in a prominent place in the dining area, for them to drink at any time they liked, as well as having various traditional dishes “on the go”.

a Japanese distilled liquor

a Japanese one-pot dish consisting of several ingredients stewed and kept warm

The overwhelming message was that those three days January 1st-3rd were a time for eating, drinking, and family.

Now…that sounds a lot like my 24th-26th December…doesn’t it? 😉

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