The ExPat Returneth

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Exporting Foreign Holidays: Which Way to Celebrate Valentine's Day?

How many of you ex-expats (repats) still celebrate the holidays of your former foreign land? 
Our little Oni

With no roasted soybeans,
 we made due with popcorn this year
Last week in Japan, they celebrated Setsubun, one of our kids' favorite holidays. It's a spring rite that involves throwing roasted soybeans at someone in an Oni demon mask to cleanse your house of bad spirits and usher good tidings in for spring. 

It may sound odd, but how many times a year are my children allowed to throw food at their parents? There just isn't a holiday equivalent in America. Poor kids.

Setsubun pastries in Japan

Our tiny Hina Ningyo court
March 3rd is Girl's Day or the Doll Festival, Hina Matsuri, another holiday my kids love (boys get their turn in May on Children's Day). In Japan, grandparents buy their newborn granddaughters Hina Ningyo, dolls that replicate the Emperor, Empress and court from the ancient Heian Period. These beautiful china and silk dolls are displayed on tiered steps covered in red cloth in a place of prominence. If Grandma and Grandpa are well coffered, or if you inherit a set, you might have a royal court complete with furniture, lights, and beautiful lacquer bento boxes. 

A well attended Hina Ningyo court
We found our Emperor and Empress set and a couple pieces of lacquer furniture at a flea market. I was probably more entranced with the furniture than my young daughters. The drawers open and shut. The craftsmanship is remarkable. Our daughters love the dolls. Unfortunately we weren't farsighted enough to buy two sets, so a fight may ensue when the little chickies fly the nest and want to take the dolls with them. 

Cute Girls' Day treats
On Hina Matsuri, girls are given special rice cracker treats (in pastel colors!) and families may eat chirashisushi, a vinegared-rice dish with sliced vegetables, omelette, and salmon on top. Last year, I went to a Japanese friend's home and we made California sushi rolls for our kids. You adapt. We still display our dolls through February (you have to take them down after Girl's Day or your daughter may not marry, so the saying goes).

That stealthy holiday, Valentine's Day, approaches. In Japan the day is celebrated by women giving men dark chocolate. The men are supposed to return the favor with white chocolate a month later, March 14, on White Day. 

Fun to see in Japan, but I'm not taking that one back with me! I'll keep my dark chocolate to myself.

What holidays from your host country do you still celebrate? How have you adapted them to your home country? What holidays do you miss?

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