Since the 1980s, Livingston United Methodist Church has kept the Japanese tradition of making mochi rice balls for the New Year alive and well through its annual Mochi Tsuki event.
The church shares the tradition with the Central Valley annually, and the process is believed to bring about good luck as the New Year begins. It begins by soaking roughly 400 pounds of sweet rice for two days, which is then washed and transported to a grinder to help with the pounding process. The rice used to make mochi is unlike ordinary rice, as its grains are much smaller and more glutinous. Next, two people pound the rice as one person rotates it during the process. The rice is then rolled into balls to enjoy, either as plain dumplings or ahn mochi, which is mochi that contains a sugary, sweet substance made out of beans.
The pounding of the mochi provides a kind of entertainment that showcases the style of the Japanese tradition, and allows the opportunity for people to learn the important laborious step of the Mochi Tsuki process.
Typically, the freshly-made mochi is stacked next to a shrine to encourage good fortune, but at Livingston United Methodist Church, the group sells it to the community to eat for their New Year’s celebrations.
“Mochi Tsuki is an interesting tradition,” said Kirsty Hardwick of Livingston United Methodist Church, adding that anyone who would like to help or observe the event is welcome.
The church’s New Year’s mochi is available to order through Dec. 27; the price is $5 a pound for plain mocha and $2 apiece for ahn mocha. Orders can be placed by calling the church from 9 a.m. to noon at 209-394-2264, or order forms can be picked up at the church. Orders will be available for pickup from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. only on Dec. 30 at the church, located at 11695 W. Olive Ave., in Livingston.