A few weeks ago, I received a beautiful pair of lacquer red chopsticks. Subtle yet bold, I took to them instantly and have been finding opportunities to use them. The gift giver, a haiku poet Ms. Sho Otaka explained that at the end of the year people give chopsticks as part of the traditional gift giving season. This was the first I had heard about this custom, but it strikes me as a good one. Japanese people rely on chopsticks so much that to have a new pair to begin the year off right strikes me as a lovely.
Coincidentally, the next day a colleague of mine was leaving for China - where she is from - and mentioned that it is tradition to eat dumplings before you depart and noodles upon your arrival home. I did a bit of research into this - apparently it is a custom in northeast China, where my friend is from. There are not clear reasons as to why dumplings and why noodles, but my hunch is that because dumplings are round, it means that you go full circle and return again. And noodles - perhaps for a long life?