Blog, Winter Food

2021 the year of the Ox/cow and my Osechi for this new year

There are twelve animal signs of each year, this is called juni-shi . The cycle rotates every twelve years and as we head into 2021 we are in the second animal of the 12 animal symbols.  2021 is the year of the ox/cow (牛).

Is the cow / ox your birth animal ? If you were born in 1949,1961,1973,1985,1997,2009 and 2021 you are an ox. Attributes are hardworking and honest, they never look for praise or to be the center of attention. They often hide their talent, but they’ll gain recognition through their hard work. Rarely losing their temper, they think logically and make great leaders.

Men born in the Ox year are reliable and trustworthy. Women born in the Ox year are calm and gentle.

Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine is associated with Tenjin the Kami Shinto god of education. Many students go to the shrine to pray for success in their studies. This shrine is home to many ox statues. Cattle are considered the messengers of Tenjin. The statues are said to have healing properties when you touch their head or horns.

Kitano-Tenmangu shrine If you go to a temple on New Year’s Eve at midnight you will hear the temple bell rung 108 times which is a ritual known as Joya no Kane to ward off the 108 worldly sins.

The first shrine or temple  visit of the year is called Hatsumode and many people buy a Omikuji which gives you a fortune for the year.
This is mine which came with a amulet of an ox for the new year, I have been given the great blessing so I’m quite happy about that.
It says it’s time to start something new. So let’s do it !

There is an importance of the first things on New Year’s Day in Japan, as well as the first shrine visit, there is the first sunrise (hatsuhinode) or the first dream you have (hatsuyume), if you dream of a hawk or Mount Fuji it is considered lucky. Other things that might be done on New Year’s Day maybe the giving of cards known as Nengajo to friends or relatives. Children will receive money envelopes known as otoshidama.

I hope that even if you cannot be in Japan you can try to recreate a Japanese tradition at home. This could be in the form of eating traditional Japanese food like toshikoshi soba. Toshikoshi means end the old year and enter the new. A hot bowl of soba noodles eaten on New Year’s Eve symbolises good luck for the year ahead and cutting ties with the old year.

Also a special meal that I have spoken about many times in older posts called Osechi-Ryori

This is what I prepared for my New Years 2021 meal, packed in a ojubako a lacquer bento box.

Akabeko ( Beko meaning cow or bull )
I think this red cow from the Aizu region in Japan is very appropriate this year not only because it is the year of the cow but of what it represents. The paper mache covered wood shaped to look like a cow has the head and neck hung from strings so the head bobs up and down. It is one of Fukushima prefectures most famous crafts.
Over time people believed that the toy could ward off small pox and other illnesses. The body of the cow has a circle pattern which represents the mark of small pox. It was said children would grow up healthy if they had a Akabeko. Nowadays the Akabeko became a representation of good luck, happiness and strength. However  with this year 2021 being the year of the cow and all the things that happened in 2020, maybe having an Akabeko to ward off illness could help us all once again.

I wish everyone a happy healthy 2021. 明けましておめでとうございます