This past year has been a busy one for Ukwanshin. We were kept busy with many projects…major ones being Danju Kariyushi and of course, the finale with the Iha Four Sisters. As the end of the year comes and the new year begins we can look back and see the trials, tribulations, celebrations, and many other events that may have affected us in a way during this past year. I am also reminded that we are one more year closer to losing our resources of our Okinawan identity and traditions, but also one year richer in our work to preserve and pass on our traditions.
As I was looking around while going to get things to prepare for the new year, I noticed that I was one in a few of my age, that was hunting for new year ingredients and decorations, which I am so used to having since my grandmother was alive. Where are the younger generations? Who is keeping up the traditions in other houses? How important is it to others to continue these traditions? I was thinking also that there might be one day when families may no longer get together to prepare and enjoy traditional new year celebrations. Here in Hawai`i at least, it seems like the younger generation is becoming so inculturalized into the western way, that our younger Okinawan community is losing its grasp on something which was a big part of life for us growing up. I hear so often the excuses of “too busy”, “humbug to make the food” etc. It’s kind of interesting that our 1st and 2nd generations didn’t have the technical tools and equipment that makes our lives so much easier today, but yet, they didn’t complain. We have so much to make things easier, faster, and instant, but so many cannot find or make the time to do tradition. Instead, our priorities have become things like sports, facebook, being connected to our cell phones, instead of family. Who will continue the food for new years? How many know how to order mochi, pig’s feet, pork, fish, etc?
The preparations for the new year may seem superstitious for some, but if you think about it, it all makes sense. Clean your house and put things in place for beginning of the year so you don’t go into the new year in clutter. Make food to share with family and friends to start the year with fellowship and in company of your household. Display new year decorations to remind us of our roots and to honor our ancestors as we hope for the good year of health and prosperity. The values that are contained in the so called “rituals” of the new year celebrations are what keeps us together and in check of ourselves. It’s a time to look outward in a time where society looks so much at itself.
As the year of the rabbit traditionally starts on February 3rd, try to find time to look back at how we can continue our traditions, share them and pass them on to our next generations. Ii sougwachi debiru! Happy New Year!