New Years and Fairy Tales


New Years has always meant family and friends to me. We have followed the local Hawaii traditions along with a heavy influence of Japanese culture. This can mean a lot of things, but for our family, it has meant three in particular: fireworks, a midnight meal, and a New Year’s party.

In Hawaii, the New Year is celebrated like the Fourth of July on the Mainland USA with households buying hundreds of dollars of fireworks each.

hawaii fireworks
Fireworks over Ala Moana Beach Park is one of the dozens of shows that no one goes to because they’re too busy popping their own

We’re pretty sure it started as a Chinese tradition. The bright lights and loud noises of fireworks were used to scare away bad luck and to welcome the New Year with good fortune, but somewhere along the way it became a local tradition. People started to go all out and spend hundreds of dollars on fireworks. The celebration date even changed from the lunar new year (Chinese New Year) to the solar new year.

Regardless, it has been a time of great fun and joy throughout my life.

At midnight on New Year’s, my family follows Japanese tradition and has a meal of soba (buckwheat noodles) and a sip of sake (which is also probably an excuse to get drunk). The next morning my grandma makes ozoni, a miso soup filled with a bunch of stuff that has meaning for the prosperity of the new year.

new year meal
Japanese New Years meal (but obviously nicer than the norm) with ozoni in the forefront.

It was the annual telling-the-meaning-of-everything-we-eat thing that my grandma did that sparked this idea with me: What if we told the stories of our families on OKP?

We’re constantly talking about diversity and the lack of representation. In Hawaii, there is a ton of representation of Asians because for a long time we were a strong majority. But, as I am slowly finding out, this is not the case across the continental US.

Cheri and I love fairy tales (as mentioned in a previous post here) and a lot of our stories are often based or stylized around the old-time voice of long, long ago. I recently won a contest with new-age parables and Cheri has a few works that masterfully combine many old tales into one new amazing story.

The two ideas merged and suddenly, I wanted to hear stories about my family so that I could transform them into sort of a ‘modern’ take on fairy tales. I say ‘modern’ because the point is not that I’m trying to emulate the old stories and take them to the present, I want to tell the stories of my family as Japanese-Americans living in Hawaii and the lessons picked up along the way.

momma and gpa s
Picture of my mom and my Grandpa as Japanese Americans in Hawaii with my Grandpa in uniform for the US Army.

While thinking about this, I began to run out of stories already. I tend to do that, have an idea then not have enough motivation/actual stories to see it through. But what are friends for, right?

Anyway, I appealed to my ‘Banana Bunch’ (the latest name among many, including ‘the Pippettes’, that I have called my entourage or ‘friends’ as they like to be called) to see the wisdom of my idea. Well, it was actually closer to appealing to them to join me in my mad endeavor. Different families have different personal stories to tell and I wanted to hear each and every one of them from their own perspectives.

The stories that I had heard most often were those of pain and misfortune, of embarrassment and anger, or of regret. These are stories that sounded like lessons which brought to mind the fairy tales that I had grown up reading.

shrek once upon a time book
Shrek’s fairy tale book epitomizing everything that a fairy tale is.

I knew three of my grandparents. One died before I was born, but I also wanted to hear stories about him that I had never heard before and, when implored, I found that my mother was eager to tell me about him — almost as though she had been waiting for me to ask.

So, dear readers, with my friends on board and my family happily willing (though we will see if their actual memories match up to the grandeur of fairy tales) I look forward to a long term project that I hope to finish this year: The Family Fairy Tales (working title).

With the theme of representation, I hope to eventually have a collection of stories reflecting three generations (maybe more) of immigrants and US citizens with a slant towards the Asian (Japanese and Okinawan mostly). But also those of non-Asian ancestry who had ties with the Japanese during and after the war in the stories of one of the Banana Bunch. And one day– I’m making it my resolution for this year — I’ll have an edited piece of work, worthy of publishing.

As Cheri posted about yesterday, we are taking on a few challenges to hopefully spur us into the blog-o-sphere. One is the Ultimate Blog Challenge and the other is a personal favorite of mine: Bout of Books. The first requires a post each day (which I am oddly excited about, but we’ll see how long that lasts) and the second pushes me to read things that I’ve been putting off.

Bout of Books

So to kick in the New Year, we have two challenges and our Giveaway, where we are giving away books that we have reviewed in the past year. We hope to see all of you join.

We wish all of you the absolute best in this upcoming year and we’ll see you every day this month!

serious 2014 okpotato
Cool picture taken on New Years Eve. We look forward to the start of the New Year!

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