New Years Traditions

27 December 2012

Well, another Christmas is in the books.  The season seems to get shorter every year.
And just when I’m getting used to writing 2012, I’ll have to start remembering to write 2013 soon because here comes the new year.  Ready or not!


And that got me thinking about New Year traditions.


One of the New Year traditions that won’t be much of a tradition anymore are firecrackers.  The good ‘ol Duck brand firecrackers.




Boy, I remember seeing my uncle getting one of these boxes of firecrackers for Christmas and thought “Ho, he’s the luckiest person in the whole wide world!“.  I don’t think I’ve ever had one of these cherished boxes of Duck brand firecrackers.  Truthfully – maybe it has to do with becoming MLC – but I think firecrackers are too loud now.  When I was younger, the louder – the better.  But now – it hurts my ears.  (Wow, I’m really sounding like an old-fart).  Just give me some penny rockets.


Another tradition is pounding mochi.  We never did that in our family – but there are a lot of people who’s families gather together between Christmas and New Years to pound mochi.  But it’s also a way to bring the friends and relatives together.


How about sashimi.  Regardless of the price – gotta have some red fish for good luck.



Actually, eating sashimi isn’t really that high on my New Years traditions list.  For one thing – the price is ridiculous.  And I suppose because we eat poke and nigiri sushi year-round, it’s not like it’s only available around New Years time.  But if it’s there – I’m on it!  Especially if it has shredded daikon (to soak up the wasabi/shoyu).


One tradition that we started after Paula and I got married was to put up kadomatsu at the entrances of our house for the New Year.  But I don’t go for the big cut pieces of bamboo and pine wrapped with the rope.  I just go for the simple branches of bamboo and pine that’s already half dead when I buy it from the supermarket.  So I try to hold out until New Year’s Eve to buy it so it’s relatively fresh when the midnight hour comes – only problem is that sometimes it means that I have to run from Liliha Times to Liliha Foodland to Don Quijote to Beretania Times to all around town to find it.

But this year – my procrastination paid off.  Since I didn’t trim the matsu trees – there are long “antennas” sticking out.  And Paula’s non-invasive bamboo plant proved to indeed be invasive so we have a lot of bamboo to use.  So this year, I’ll be making our own kadomatsu to bring in the New Year.


What are some of your New Year traditions?  Cleaning the house?  Washing the car?  Making Portuguese bean soup or Ozoni?  Visiting relatives?  Going to Chinatown markets?  How about some old traditions from small-kid-time that are no longer followed?  How do you prepare to ring in the New Year?

I remember small kid time – when New Year’s eve was on a weekday, my dad had to work all day.  And he said that I couldn’t pop firecrackers until he came home.  So all day was spend taking apart the baby camel firecrackers and the checkerbombs – and putting them in the special cigar box that was reserved just for firecrackers.  Gathering up the punks from the box on the icebox and the matches out of the jar in the cupboard next to the jar with the birthday candles.

Then at about 4:15, I’d be sitting at the side of the road waiting for my dad’s ride to drop him off.  And as soon as he got out of the car, he’d say “Ok, go play firecracker!” and I’d run home.  The firecracker cigar box, punk, and matches were all set up in line ready for that moment.

Then it was off the to back yard to start throwing firecrackers.  After I got bored throwing firecrackers, the next thing to do was look around for things to blow up.

I remember this one time I picked up a rotten avocado off the ground that fell into our yard from the neighbor’s tree.  I stuck a checkerbomb into it, lit it, and ran.  Ka-Pow!  That thing was blown to smithereens.  Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the neighbor’s bedsheets hanging on the clothesline until it was splattered with rotten avocado.

That’s when I put out my punk, gathered up my firecracker cigar box, went back into the house, and decided to watch TV – at least until nightfall…

The best was blowing up model cars and army men.  Or sticking the firecracker into the dirt and watching it blow up and leave a hole in the ground.

Remember how to make “shu-shu babies”?  You’d bend the firecracker in half until the middle breaks and the power is exposed.  The when you’d light it, instead of popping, it’d shoot the sparks out of the broken part.  Those were the best to stick in the partially blown up models – because the plastic models would usually catch on fire.

But the ultimate thrill (and challenge) was to throw the firecracker and have it pop in the air.  That took a special skill and a lot of luck (or stupidity).  It meant standing in the throwing position, right shoulder and arm cocked back, left hand holding the punk, lighting the fuse, and WAITING for the fuse to burn down close to the firecracker, and throwing it not too early, yet not too late.

See, if you throw it too early, the firecracker lands on the ground before it pops.  Junk.  But if you wait too long, the firecracker pops in your hand – usually right next to your ear.

Yeah, I’ve had that happen before.  At first your fingers begin to tingle as the blood starts flowing back into the fingertips.  Then you notice that your fingers are all silver from the burnt firecracker powder.  And your ear is ringing and I mean RINGING!

That’s when I’d put out my punk, gather my firecracker cigar box and go in the house to watch TV – while hiding my hand under my legs so no one could see the silver fingertips.

Eventually after feeling came back to my hand and my right ear stopped ringing – it was back out again looking for more things to blow up.

The best time to throw firecrackers was just after the sun set.  It was still light enough to see so you could light the fuse, yet dark enough to watch the cool trail of sparks emitting from the lit fuse as it flew across the yard.

Remember taking 3 checkerbombs, twisting the fuses together, lighting it and throwing it into the mailbox while quickly shutting the mailbox door?  BANG!  And the mailbox door would fly open as the mailbox would smoke from the blast.  It made a cool metallic explosion sound too.  Not really a BANG sound, more like a PANG! sound.

And remember the duck brand “throw packs”?  They were individually wrapped packs of about 50 firecrackers that was sold in bundles of 40 packs?  Those were saved for nighttime.

We never did bust those long strings of firecrackers.  But our neighbor did.  At midnight we’d walk over to their front yard to watch the long string of firecrackers go off at the stroke of midnight – and anticipate the “bomb” at the top as the grand finale.

And nobody cleaned up the street that night.  That meant waking up early the next day and hunting for unpopped firecrackers to save for another day.

Ahh, those were the days…


What are some of your small kid time memories of “Playing Firecracka”?

Can’t remember?  Well then, how was your New Years weekend?  Did you clean the house?  “Bus’ firecracka”?  Visit relatives?  Eat, drink, and be merry?  And did you make any New Year’s Resolutions you care to share with us?