However, Christmas really seemed like the signal to start cooking for New Year's. Like most "mixed plate kids" we knew that 'calendar' New Year's was for mostly Japanese food, while "Chinese" new year was later for mostly Chinese food. Either way, it was good eating.
While I still don't cook the New Year's foods (thanks to a friend who has taken on this responsibility/honor), we do keep a few traditions.
First--New Year's means fancy kamaboko. Kamaboko is steamed fish cake. It's about 9 inches long, half cylinder and comes on a wooden block. For New Year's, there are 'special' kamaboko like what you see here--sho-chiku-bai (pine, bamboo, plum). These represent the virtues of inner strength, longevity and resiliency, and beauty and optimism in adversity.