Hawaiian/Asian style, the new year is ushered in with fireworks and food. In Hawaiian homes, the food is traditional. In my mother's home, it is always laulaus and poi. For the uninitiated, a laulau is usually a hunk of pork and a smaller hunk of fish wrapped in taro leaves a.k.a luau (lacking taro leaves, spinich is an acceptable alternative) which are then bundled into two ti leaves (not the stuff you put in a tea pot ...) set at right angles to each other and then brought up around the pork/fish/taro leaf bundle, tied and then steamed. These are always served with a bowl of poi, which goes with everything -- like rice or potatoes in other cultures. Additional dishes can be added -- chunks of brine-soaked salmon served almost like a relish with fresh tomato and green onion; chicken stewed in coconut milk and cooked with long rice; poke -- chunks of raw ahi seasoned with assorted stuff (my favorite of the traditional seasonings is inamona, ground up kukui nut; crunchy seaweed is also popular), always best when eaten with poi. Sometimes there is opihi, the Polynesian version of oysters on the half-shell. Opihi are those little shells you see on the reef that look like a Chinese hat. It takes a sharp knife and a quick hand to pick opihi off the rocks, always keeping one eye on the waves for safety. Pop the animal out of his shell and serve. Cooking spoils the flavor, not to mention the texture. Haupia is a basic cornstarch pudding made with coconut milk, cooked thick enough so that the finished product can be cut into squares and eaten as finger food. Luau Cake is a white cake with haupia filling (not cooked so thick, tho) between the layers and frosted with gooey white frosting and lots of freshly grated coconut. Since there were just two of us tonight, Mother and I settled for the laulaus and poi with no frills -- served at regular dinner time instead of at midnight.
The popping of fire crackers began shortly after dark - about 6:30 p.m. It's now 11 p.m., and the booms of the bombs and crackles of the strings of firecrackers are getting more and more frequently. It's difficult to tell whether the flashes in the sky are light from someone's fireworks or lightening from more storms promised by the weather folk. We've had bits of rain -- some of it quite defeaning on the metal lanai roof. Ray and I, with Larry and Leonore from Sacramento, spent the 2005-06 transition 23 stories up in a condo in Waikiki. I'll never forget Ray and Larry looking out across the city about this time of night at the flashes and pops and bangs and air thick with smoke. "It looks like a war zone!" said Larry. Wait until midnight!!
The smell of gunpowder and the sight of bits of red paper littering the ground remind me of happy childhood times when we hung strings of firecrackers -- literally several dozen strings -- in the mango trees to set off almost all at once at midnight, along with the sparklers and firecrackers. There was the anticipation of midnight, being allowed to light one or two strings at a time earlier in the evening. Sometimes we went to my grandparents' in the country, where kids went to bed early and then were awakened just before midnight to watch the neighborhood display -- always better in a largely Japanese community than in our staid Caucasian Kahala neighborhood.
So 2008 is nearly a memory. We're about to open a new calendar. May our share economic and social stresses allow us to focus on those things that are really important -- the people around us, those who we care about and who care about us. Reach out and let someone know you care. Look hard for something positive even in the most difficult relationships. Think global, but live local. Give thanks. Don't forget to pray ....!