Monday, July 9, 2012

The Great Japanese Fourth of July (And Other Disasters)

Part of the "fun" of being in an international marriage where one partner is outside of his/her homeland, is trying to maintain and pass on the events which have meaning to you. Now don't get me wrong, sometimes it is actually fun, but many times it's a bit of a struggle between the new country not particularly caring about said special event/holiday which has such meaning to you as well as just trying to find whatever specialty items you need to pull this turkey off.

Now if you happen to be in a nation that shares many of the same cultural traditions, it's a bit easier. I mean, yes, a British Christmas is not the same as an American one (In the US, we usually don't light our food on fire), but it's not so much of a stretch. Being in a country with a very different cultural background, like Japan, however...

I've given up on Thanksgiving really. As much as I miss turkey (God do I miss turkey), the damn thing falls in the middle of the week. Now once every 5 years or so Japanese Labor Thanksgiving happens to fall on Thanksgiving in the US so I can somewhat celebrate it, but lacking an oven big enough to cook even the smallest of turkeys, not to mention lacking turkeys (Without paying through the nose) means that a holiday that was very important to me because it was one of times we would see my relatives in California has regretfully fallen by the wayside. The only real Thanksgiving event that goes on is that I DO manage to give thanks (I'm the only one, Makoto just wonders what Daddy's doing) and I do insist on reading Ten Fat Turkeys to Makoto and Hikaru.

Easter is a bit easier to celebrate, getting chocolate is not a problem and egg dye kits are relatively cheap, but all we really do celebrate is Easter morning with an egg hunt and hot cross buns (Slightly modified, finding  currants has proven to be impossible, raisins seem to work).
It can be done! Even in Japan.

Some holidays of course are both easier, and harder because Japan celebrates them. New Year's for example is one that I've given up on trying to show off American style just because it's the major holiday in Japan and Beloved will brook no opposition to celebrating it how it SHOULD be done in Japan (I.e. eating soba, watching Red vs White on NHK, and hibernating under the kotatsu). Valentine's Day over here is of course backwards as in Japan it's women who given men chocolate, not the other way around ( Beloved tends to claim she doesn't have to as her husband is American so I need to make with the roses), and Christmas is... interesting (So much so I'm saving it for another post).

This is far more acceptable for Halloween.
So with the problems of either trying to show my sons that, no, Christmas does NOT involve nativity scenes with Doraemon or that a Santa suit isn't exactly a Halloween costume OR getting blank looks when I announce that today is Presidents Day, celebrating holidays of any stripe becomes one where the wise parent must choose his or her battles.

Sadly, wisdom might be my dump stat because dammit, I am an American. I might not bleed red, white, and blue, I'm not one to belt out the Star Spangled Banner anytime I feel the need, and while I DO own an Old Glory of my own, I use it for teaching not for flying, but... I still want to celebrate Independence Day.

Growing up I remember celebrating the 4th. We had the parades, the small fair in the park, the BBQs, the fireworks, etc. It was fun, you know? Mid-summer when Mom would be off of work so we got to see her since we were on summer vacation and of course mid-July in Nevada is usually a hot one (Of course, it's also snowed, but that's Nevada's weather for you).

But there's more, silly as it might sound. I liked seeing the red, white, and blue bunting. I liked hearing Stars and Stripes Forever. I enjoyed watching the various documentaries on TV about the founding of the United States of America. As I grew older, more knowledgeable, and far more cynical, I admit that it got tinged with a bit more sighing and sadness as I came to realize that things were not as rosy as I thought they were when I was a child, but I still enjoyed it. I remember my last 4th at home, going to watch the fireworks one last time at the park and celebrating being an American. And while I usually don't make a bit deal about my nationality in Japan, I do want my sons to kinda get the same feeling I had back in ye olde days.

Fireworks ona stick!
But... there are some issues of course. Japan, for somewhat obvious reasons, does not celebrate the 4th of July. To the Japanese, the 4th is just another day, and given that summer break in Nagano starts at the end of July, it's another school day. Even worse, while fireworks are available for shooting off (The Japanese LOVE fireworks), the start of July is still rainy season so more often than not, our 4th has ended in a drizzle instead of a bang (I admit that this concept still baffles me. Nevada gets so little rain that the notion of an entire month of rain still is unthinkable). But still I try, the 4th becomes a day when I put my foot down and shove Beloved out of the kitchen and forbid the making of Japanese foods, or particularly healthy ones for that matter. No, THIS day we're going to eat American. We're talking cheese burgers or chili-dogs, with a fruit salad and maybe corn-on-the-cob, and ice cream for dessert. For one day at least my sons can taste a bit of America.

This year however proved to be a bit more of a challenge than previous years though. For one, on the actual 4th, I was teaching so it was a no-go for either the dinner or the fireworks (Which turned out to be somewhat of a blessing as it rained that night of course). Saturday the 7th also fizzled out due to classes so everything was re-set for Sunday the 8th. So we were four days late, but hey... it used to be that Independence Day celebrations lasted a week, right? Sadly, it proved to be one sans chili-dogs as while I had the dogs, the buns, and the cheese, I lacked chili and so did the store that I used to be able to find the damn stuff. I also lacked the time to MAKE chili so a very quick "Hey-Beloved-I'm-going-to-the-store-to-get-tomatoes-and-making-Chicago-style-dogs" was uttered.

Now, the dogs themselves were slightly unconventional. I didn't have all beef franks, I also lacked a poppy-seed bun and sports peppers, but excepting Makoto spitting out the pickle spear, they came out pretty good. Beloved had never had one of them before and was very impressed.

The final event, the fireworks, also started off a bit wonky as the neighborhood head wandered by for a visit at JUST the wrong time, taking up the 15 minutes I planned to do fireworks before our favorite TV show came on and then we discovered that the firelighter we had was pretty much out of juice. Still managed to fire up 4 sparklers, which both Hikaru and Makoto liked and then... well... then...

While at the local home store I bought what I thought was going to be a fire fountain. In other words, a multi-colored flare that would look pretty. What I got was an actual shell that went up a good 50 feet or so and then exploded. I'm sure our neighbors loved that one. Makoto did, he liked it a LOT. Hikaru however... well, loud bangs when you're not expecting it...

But at least we did eat American and we did set off some fireworks all to celebrate 3-out-of-4-household-members' nation's birthday.

Or so I thought, until when asked why we were doing this, Makoto replied with "It's Mommy's birthday!" I know American can be referred to as the motherland and Mom the flag and apple pie and all, but...

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