Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas. Always strange in Japan.
Most Japanese - if they celebrate it at all of course - celebrate it on Dec. 23, which is the Emperor's Birthday and a public holiday. Or on December 24th evening.
KFC and strawberry cream cakes.

I had classes on Dec. 24th and again today- the 26th.
So my Christmas was really a 24 hours of food and chocolate and presents, and alcohol and TV. Outside is snow.

Two days before I heard that my uncle had died. My mum's brother. He and I haven't met in years, but he found me thru e mail and we mailed quite a lot. His son replied to my latest mail....I'm sad that he died. Sad too because he was the last blood relative of the immediate family.
I really am on my own now. With this Japanese guy and his mum.

I am very grateful to friends in the UK and Japan who send me presents, giving me something to put in the corner of the living room under the rubber plant and rip open on Dec. 25th at breakfast time.
Dear Son was home for 2 whole days from ski work - which really is the best present of all. Now he's gone again, until January 4th....yup - I am alone with Okaasan for the holidays again :-)

Okaasan enjoyed Christmas with us.
She came home from day center with cards for both of us! Just like a kid coming home from play school with cards for Mommy and Daddy. Here is mine....I don't think she made the picture, but she wrote a message on the back....

December 24th night I cooked Tandoori chicken (but very mild) and roast potatoes and salad, and then left over cake from my class parties. And we risked giving Okaasan a little mulled wine and the three of us toasted "Melli Kurisumasu!". And got stuck in. Okaasan ate loads and had seconds of the chicken.

We didn't directly give her a present this year. I felt before that it put her on the spot a bit about not having a present to give us in return. But in the past few days I've added new pajamas and underwear to her supplies - just bought them, crumpled them up a bit (to get that used look) and left them in her room....I can't bear the idea of an actual shopping trip with her.

And now - December 26th. I've got last classes today and tomorrow and Japan is rushing into New Year. Most offices will finish tomorrow.

It's a strange overlapping time: Christmas afternoon I am sitting scoffing chocolate and writing messages on all my Japanese New Year cards. Post them by Dec. 25th and they will get delivered on New Year's Day.
At the community center building today I noticed that they had big pine and bamboo door displays outside - and then inside a large Christmas tree.
 Both festivals jostling with eachother ;-)

And so here too. I shall take down the Christmas stuff in the kitchen and start to think how to give Okaasan a New Year without too much work and stress for me.

First this:

It's a bag of precut and cooked veggies. All the new year traditional veggies that go into the basic simmered in soy sauce and sweet sake dish called umani.
I found it last week in a wholesale shop, when I was buying Christmas cake stuff. It'll save me buying all those veggies bit by bit and then cutting them all up. All I have to do is make the soup to cook them in.
Last week I met the fellow gym member who gave me a New Year food cooking lesson last year.
"What are you cooking for your family this year?" I asked her.
"Me? Oh no, I'm a bit bored of New Year food - I'll do some chicken and sushi for my husband's parents. That's all!".
And SHE is a cooking teacher.

Okaasan? Rather worryingly she is getting into New Year mode too.
She has put up the little rice ball decoration that she bought a few weeks ago, and she cut out this advert from the paper. She sits and looks at it, taking it out of those plastic file, putting it back in, then taking it out again..

It's BIG bottles of sake for New Year. 1.8 L of sake.
She started bugging Dear Son early this morning about it. 
"You should order this! Look! It's a good price!"
Well, he will be away. I don't drink sake. Okaasan drinks a little. The cats don't...I think.

So I really hope she doesn't decide to buy some! Must make sure I don't let her into a shop with too much money.
I plan to take her somewhere for New Year feeling - maybe the park where they sell door decorations etc. But a supermarket or department store would be a big risk. 
Once she sees stuff she will be hard to dissuade about buying it.

Once upon a time Okaasan cooked huge dinners for New Year and her husband's staff. They all came to dinner. So of course she remembers that, and all the stuff on TV and in the newspaper is triggering those memories.

I will have to be careful about her shopping trips. By telephone or on foot.


  1. That card brought tears to my eyes. What a lovely gesture Okaasan! And so nice of you to keep her secretly stocked up on PJs and undies. So sorry to hear about your uncle :( but glad that you were able to keep in contact with him these last years.
    Good luck for the festive season sans Y. I have ordered osechi this year but Okaasan has been busy with huge bags of konbu no doubt now delecately tied into bows and nimono-ed with shiitake. Well, that was the smell I got all day yesterday anyway :)

    And belated Christmas wishes and salutations. May 2014 be a year of good health and low stress for you all. xxx

    1. oh no...huge bags of konbu......oh. no!

  2. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!