Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Time to bring out a few goodies for Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival. I keep to a very few traditions such as the twin "fortune" characters and Lai See, monetary gifts given in red envelopes. Red is an important colour signifying good fortune and happiness.

There are special red envelopes for specific occasions such as birthdays and weddings but many are generic. One must enclose money in an even number, eight being especially lucky but never, ever f-o-u-r, which sounds like the Chinese word for d-e-a-t-h. One must also not speak not so nice words during Chinese New Year celebrations, scold children (and presumably, husbands). As a general rule, lai see are given to younger unmarried family members.

Candy is important to start the new year off with a sweet taste in one's mouth. This year I have not been able to shop in Chinatown for a better selection but these will do: hard candy in red wrappers, chewy mango gummies, and lovely ginger candies.

In my not-entirely-Chinese corner are one large and two small gold ingots representing good fortune and wealth. There is also a small gold Maneki Neko (lucky) cat with its right paw raised, beckoning rather than waving as it is interpreted according to Western customs. A raised left paw is commonly seen in shops where it attracts customers (money). Sometimes the paw is battery operated to move the paw back and forth. Other cats have two raised paws.

I also have several strings of decorative firecrackers. Some believe that as the culture was based in agriculture, the noise of the firecrackers woke the dragon which then flew across the sky bringing the spring rains. The other theory is that the noise scared away the evil spirits and ny misfortune, making a fresh start for the New Year.

In any case, the main tradition I enjoy is that the food--and plenty of it--be prepared in advance so there is no work done in the first part of the New Year. My understanding is that this allows time for celebration rather than work as well as avoidance of any mishaps in the kitchen, setting a poor tone for the remainder of the year. And no cutting with knives or scissors, no haircuts or manicures or pedicures either! Cutting symbolizes severing relationships.

We also try to not interrupt the meal--more symbolism. The food is simple and very--you guessed it--symbolic. As there are only two of us, I will make fewer dishes, but I will be cooking all day on New Year's Eve. Noodles and fish are a must. Noodles should be long and uncut and you mustn't cut or bite them; slurping is good! They represent long life so you wouldn't want to cut them short. The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for "profit" but you must never consume all of the fish. This represents abundance for the new year, that you will have more than you need.

Each day of the (traditionally two-week) long celebration is devoted to specific activities, mostly related to visiting certain family members. Normaly everyone goes home for Chinese New Year; it is the reason for the largest migration on the planet! Sadly, I will not be with my family members but between the telephone and internet we can all be in touch.

Happy Year of the Rabbit!


  1. What a GREAT post!! It's good to be reminded of all that the Chinese New Year is!

    I love that corner table with just a few decorations... very pretty, and tasteful. Unlike me & my gaudy rendition of Chinese New Year! Lol.

    And you reminded me of my Maneki Neko collection! I must get some pics of them together for my Kitsch blog...

    Would you mind if i shared this on my facebook page? It really is a great post!

  2. Thanks, Amber! There was so much more I wanted to write about but I'm glad you like this and I don't mind if you share it.
    The thing about Chinese decorations: a little goes a long way! They can be pretty loud and gaudy but it's not all bad if it brights the middle of winter.

  3. Oh I do love all your traditions, so interesting! I wish I could slurp some noodles with you, but instead, I'll slurp some on my own and think of you!
    Hope the year of the Rabbit brings you luck, health, joy and abundance!

  4. Thanks, Donna, it's nice that you find them interesting. That sounds like the kind of year I'm ready for. :-)

  5. Oh, Cool! I liked this template, and was planning on checking it out. Now i don't have to... i can see it's nice! :-)

  6. Amber, while I was playing around testing other templates, I was called away and didn't have time to change it back.

    I didn't like that the lines on the page didn't match with the text; I found it distracting to the eye. I did like that it was lighter and included stitching on it. :-)

    The weird thing is that when I load the page, I see that other page flash before the ladybug pages loads!