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San-ga-nichi, Nanakusa, and Kagami Biraki: January’s Holidays in Japan

These celebrations are highly important for Japanese people.

 

In Japan, the month of January is unique because there are 3 commemorative dates for Japanese culture: San Ga Nichi, the first three days of the new year; Nanakusa, when the Japanese eat seven herb porridge; and Kagami Biraki, the opening of the mochi.

 

Holidays in Japan

 

Throughout the country, most of the activity is stopped by the sanganichi, the first three days of the year. There is also a tradition of practicing calligraphy on January 2, while on the 7th, many people pray for good health while eating nanakusa-gayu, a kind of rice porridge prepared from seven types of herbs. 

 

On January 11, families eat Kagami-mochi, a rice paste that has been left as an offering at the home shrine, and pray for harmony for the year ahead. This tradition is known as Kagami-biraki, “opening the mirror.”

 

San Ga Nichi Food

 

Most San Ga Nichi festivities feature osechi-ryori, a variety of food that is imbued with strong symbolism. It can include:

-Boiled konbu (seaweed)

-Kamaboko (fish cakes)

-Kurikinton (mashed potatoes with chestnuts)

-Kinpiragobo (boiled burdock root)

-Kuromame (black sweetened soya) 

-Ebi (shrimp). 

In Okinawa, regional specialties such as:

-Kubu irichi (sautéed seaweed) 

-Kubumaki (seaweed rolls)

-Nakamijiru (stewed offal) is popular to celebrate the New Year. 

Of course, sushi and sashimi can never be missing from a party in any region of Japan. 

 

Nanakusa

 

On January 7, the Japanese celebrate Nanakusa. 

“People believe that eating the famous seven herb porridge, nanakusa gayu, will prevent evil and produce longevity and health after New Year’s indulgences.”

Nanakusa Gayu

Although there is much variation, nanakusa gayu typically has the following herbs:

-Water worm (seri)

-Pastor’s bag (nazuna)

-Cudweed (gogyō)

-Pamplina (hakobera)

-Nipple (hotokenoza)

-Turnip (suzuna),

-Daikon (suzushiro)

 

Kagami Biraki

 

Kagami Biraki, meaning “opening the mirror,” refers to the ceremonial opening of a barrel of sake or the breaking of the mochi. 

Although Kagami Biraki celebrations can take place at any time to mark events, people open sake barrels ceremoniously at everything from weddings to sporting events.

Kagami Biraki Food

Right now, Kagami mochi rice cakes are the offerings to the New Year’s deity, so you break it. 

“When disassembling the mochi, it’s crucial that you use your hands or a wooden hammer. The action of cutting have negative connotations because of the historical practice of ritual gutting, which was once perpetrated in the country but is now, of course, an unpleasant subject for a festive occasion.

-The zenzai or oshiruko, a sweet red bean soup, is popular as a dessert.

-Ozoni soup is also a popular choice. 

Once again, we know about other celebrations in Japan, where we can see the exquisite meals they make and the grand festivals that make Japanese culture very special.

 

January is a month to share with family and to wish for a healthy new year in Japan.

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