“For New Years, the kids come home,” says my 96-year-old grandma to people wondering why her typically quiet home is overflowing with boisterous houseguests. Indeed, her house is so packed with her kids, kids’ spouses and grandkids during this time that every stretch of floor is claimed with someone’s bedding, a simple futon that’s folded up and tucked away during the day. My grandma repeats the statement again and again with pride and love. She’s truly happy to have her brood home and under one roof.
Ringing in the new year at grandma’s house is a tradition that we’ve upheld my entire life. It used to be that my parents would pack us up for the quick 20-minute inter-island trip from Oahu to Maui. But even now that my brother and cousins (some marrying and establishing their own family traditions) are spread across the U.S., we still fly home to grandma’s house. No one ever told us to do it or questioned it. I may not have ever understood the full meaning as to why. It was always a tradition that I inherently knew was important to who we are as a family. So even as my younger self dreamed of ringing in the year in an exotic locale, I never entertained the idea for very long. I knew where I’d be when the clock struck midnight on December 31.
As an adult, I’m deeply grateful for this tradition. It’s where I’ve learned to make dishes - like konbu maki, pig feet soup, ozoni and nishime - that my family has been making for 100+ years. Although their recipes have been written down, there are certain elements that I’ve discovered only by doing alongside my grandmother. Little tweaks to recipes or reasons why we make the foods that we do (for good luck, health or happiness). These days, my grandma, who used to prepare the bulk of the dishes, now watches on as my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws all sit around the kitchen table - talking story while assembling each dish. She’s become the supervisor, making sure the konbu maki is rolled just right and the dashi (broth) for the pig feet soup has flavor, but isn’t too salty.
It’s also a tradition of ours to go from house to house, visiting as many extended family members and friends as we can in a day. There’s always an abundance of food laid out at every stop and I inevitably return home 5 pounds heavier - full of love and gratitude.
Even if your New Years Eve was spent in quiet reflection at home, consider reaching out and connecting with friends before the month's out. Set a date. It can be just an hour in the morning for a cup of coffee, or a potluck dinner on a Friday night. Spend time with your ohana and make the moments count.
Here’s to a year filled with connection, traditions and memories! Tell us about your traditions in the Facebook Ohana.