Osechi-ryōri are traditional Japanese New Year foods. The tradition started in the Heian Period (794-1185). Osechi are easily recognizable by their special boxes called jūbako , which resemble bentō boxes. Like bentō boxes, jūbako are often kept stacked before and after use.
Originally, during first three days of the New Year it was a taboo to use a hearth and cook meals, except when cooking zōni. Osechi was made by the close of the previous year, as women did not cook in the New Year.
It is the Christmas holidays to say abroad.
[ Examples of osechi dishes ]
The dishes that make up osechi each have a special meaning celebrating the New Year. Some examples are:
Daidai , Japanese bitter orange. Daidai means "from generation to generation" when written in different kanji as 代々. Like kazunoko below, it symbolizes a wish for children in the New Year.
Datemaki , sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish paste or mashed shrimp. They symbolize a wish for many auspicious days. On auspicious days (晴れの日, hare-no-hi), Japanese people traditionally wear fine clothing as a part of enjoying themselves. One of the meanings associated with the second kanji includes "fashionability," derived from the illustrious dress of the samurai from Date Han.
Kamaboko , broiled fish cake. Traditionally, slices of red and white kamaboko are alternated in rows or arranged in a pattern. The color and shape are reminiscent of Japan rising sun, and have a celebratory, festive meaning.
Kazunoko , herring roe. Kazu means "number" and ko means "child." It symbolizes a wish to be gifted with numerous children in the New Year.
Konbu , a kind of seaweed. It is associated with the word yorokobu, meaning "joy."
Kuro-mame , black soybeans. Mame also means "health," symbolizing a wish for health in the New Year.
Kohaku-namasu , literally "red-white vegetable kuai," is made of daikon and carrot cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar with yuzu flavor.
Tai , red sea-bream. Tai is associated with the Japanese word medetai, symbolizing an auspicious event.
Tazukuri , dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. The literal meaning of the kanji in tazukuri is "rice paddy maker," as the fish were used historically to fertilize rice fields. The symbolism is of an abundant harvest.
Zōni , a soup of mochi rice cakes in clear broth (in eastern Japan) or miso broth (in western Japan).
Ebi , skewered prawns cooked with sake and soy sauce.
Nishiki tamago , egg roulade; the egg is separated before cooking, yellow symbolizing gold, and white symbolizing silver.
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