Thursday, 31 December 2009
Christmas is really a commercial event in Japan. Money-spending often goes on here and there; grown-up couples love fine dining with silky champagne, friends enjoy food and booze in scruffy-but-vibrant restaurants, boys and girls plan a romantic time in Tokyo Disney Land or other hot spots, and Santa parents rush into toy shops for their kids gift.
The 25th is no holiday though we’re nationally off on 23 December because of the Emperor’s Birthday. Restaurants, shops, business and transportation run normal. Coupled with Christmas light-up as well as winter sales, I saw many people hanging around the street this year as well. The difference from past years during this festive week was, however, that Tokyo was “economically” quiet without the shopping craze... Alas!
My Chiristmas? Well, it was relatively simple. While Mom cooked stress-free roast beef which was marinated in a soy-based sauce for twenty four hours (not so strict as Jack Bauer time), I made snowy potato gratin for its accompaniment. A bottle of daily wine somewhat gave a festive finish, but that was weekday dinner, anyway.
Today is oh-misoka (New Year’s Eve) and we’re still straddling between Christmas and New Year. In Japan, to celebrate the New Year is more family-oriented with a traditional feast at its centre. Each household thus dedicates this transitional period to not only cooking but cleaning up every corner of their houses. It’s also time to say farewell to Christmassy decors. With manpower of 120 million Japanese, all the places of the nation are changed into the formal and crispy ambience to welcome the coming year. Ture.
... Well, time to go back to my kitchen. Happy New Year!!
I almost forgot to mention the Japanese equivalent to British “Christmas Pudding” or French “bûche de Noël” on Christmas day. Thaaat’s ”Shortcake”!
Inspired by American strawberry shortcake, the Japanese version is made of a light, soft sponge crammed with strawberries. Being all covered with fresh cream, it’s surmounted by a crown of strawberries.
To be honest, this cake is available throughout a year, also recognised as sweets classic since my childhood. Plus, many other puddings from traditional bûche de Noël to the latest developed by imaginative chefs appear voguish in recent Decembers. However, as long as the colour hue of shortcake looks like symbolising ho-ho-ho Santa Clause flying over snowy mountains, it will remain Christmassy, I believe.