New Year 2023:Japanese People Eat Soba Noodles At Year End, Why?
Image Credit: Soba noodles hold a special place in Japanese New Year celebrations.

The new year is just around the corner, and everyone seems to be gearing up with their list of resolutions that they’d be following in 2023. Some may plan to travel more, while others may want to build their career or simply, eat healthy. However, one thing that most of us wish for is a better and fortunate year ahead.  

Similarly, people in Japan believe in attracting good luck before the start of the new year by eating soba noodles. Yes, you read that right. It is a Japanese tradition that is followed every year in most families. For the unversed, soba noodles are really long, buckwheat noodles that are slightly brown in colour and healthier. A bowl of soba noodles is said to be a symbol of good fortune and a longer life. No wonder they are also called the ‘longevity noodles’.  

How did the tradition begin?  

Also known as ‘Toshikoshi Soba’ or the ‘New Year Soba’, these long strands of noodles are paired with a cold or warm broth as well as dipping sauces and served as the last meal of the year. It is believed that eating soba noodles attracts a longer life span and is considered lucky too. The origins of this tradition can be traced back to the mid-Edo period that emerged from the practice of eating soba noodles on every month’s last day.  

There are different meanings attached to these noodles. One of the main reasons it is considered auspicious is due to its length that signifies longevity, the other symbolism is related to the fact that buckwheat is hard, which is a reflection of resilience. While the noodles can be broken off easily and eating them is a way of breaking off from bad memories and circumstances of the past year, leaving them behind. 

Legend has it that during the Edo period, most elite classes consumed rice frequently, which resulted in a deficiency of Vitamin B1. It was then found that buckwheat contains a good amount of this vitamin and eating soba noodles would prevent this deficiency. Moreover, it is not just the noodles, but even the toppings that are added to a bowl of soba noodles that holds immense significance. Adding seafood like shrimp is believed to reflect someone who is lucky enough to reach old age because of the bent shape of the shrimp. Even fried tofu sheets are considered special, symbolising trade and harvest.