by Jillian Toda-Currie
The first month of 2023 flew by and I’m already looking back at the holiday time with nostalgia. Snow and ice delayed me from visiting my parents in the Gorge, so this was the first year that I spent the Christmas holiday without them. It made me reflect on how lucky I’ve been to be surrounded by my family – and to have a supportive family who I’d choose to surround myself with in the first place. I know not everyone has that.
My gratitude for having this support system was amplified once I did make it out to my hometown. My cousins hosted mochitsuki for the first time since the pandemic started. It was a celebration of tradition but also of the triumph of just being together. We were missing some folks but had a couple new faces as well. There was a feeling of community, not just because we’re relatives and friends, but also because making mochi is a communal act. We all help make mochi for everyone to take home; it takes a village.
This reflection on community and tradition is what I’m holding in my heart as we get ready for Portland JACL’s New Year’s Celebration. At the time of writing this, the event hasn’t happened yet but I’m looking forward to once again being in community with everyone. The hope for this celebration is to bring our community partners and members together to enjoy each other’s company and be part of tradition.
I’ve also recently been reflecting on the balance of tradition and evolution. In particular, this has come up with the Minoru Yasui Student Contest. I’ve been part of the organizing committee for several years and it has been rewarding to see it grow as the essay contest that it has been since the beginning. For 2023’s contest, however, we’ve decided to take it in a different direction and do an art contest.
To be honest, there have been times when I question whether this is a good idea. This is a new endeavor and it’s causing the timeline to be pushed out because we need to work out the details for the new format. But then I think about where we were during the pandemic when many were questioning how to go virtual for Minoru Yasui Day and the contest. Everything could have been canceled but instead a group of dedicated volunteers worked very hard to make it happen. Instead of forgoing the event because we couldn’t do it the way it had traditionally been done, it evolved into something new that is now its own type of tradition.
I have come to realize that it’s not the act of doing the exact same things year after year that make traditions special – it’s the intention and legacy behind those acts being passed down which leaves room for traditions to evolve.