Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gong Xi Fa Tsai!

Happy Chinky New Year!!

In my family, we always celebrated Chinese New Year by putting a a red diamond shaped poster with the Chinese character of 福 upside down on the front door of our house. The character is pronounced "fu2", which I honestly don't remember what it means, but it is good - I think it means luck or prosperity or fortune or something (yeah I'm the worst Chink ever). The reason for putting it upside down, however, is because the Chinese word for "upside down" is "dao3" and sounds a lot like the Chinese word for "arrive" (dao4). Putting it upside down is like inviting luck and fortune into the household.

We'd spend the day sweeping (signifying sweeping out the bad luck with the old year) and not using knives (since we did not want to cut our fortune and luck in half for the upcoming year). For dinner, we'd usually have Chinese hot pot, which is basically a boiling cauldron of broth with veggies, tofu, and rice noodles in it in the center of the (round) table, and random raw meats that you pick up with chop sticks, dip into the boiling water, and after it is cooked, dipping the meat into a mixture of raw egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, and fermented black bean paste, and really, whatever odd Chinese sauces you wanted. This meal is very communal, as everyone needs to physically gather around the hot pot, and is meant to signify togetherness and strength for the new year.

We would also often have dumplings for the new year. Grandma, Auntie, and Momma would sit at the dinner table for hours, making the dough for the wrappers, making the filling that would go inside, and wrapping the dumplings, and by dinner time, there would be hundreds and hundreds of dumplings ready for boiling and eating. Sometimes, my mom would put a dime into some random dumplings, or fill it with a sweet rather than savory filling. If you were to be the person who ate the special dumpling, and found a sweet taste or money in your mouth, the upcoming new year was supposed to be extra special for you. I tended to get those special dumplings a lot, because I AM SPECIAL (or rather, I am a dumpling fiend and tended to eat most of the dumplings).

After dinner, we'd thank our elders and they'd give us red envelopes filled with money. The red envelopes are supposed to be given by people who are married to those who aren't married, but my grandparents stopped giving me red envelopes pretty much since I started to drive. I'm not sure what the reasoning was, but I totally miss getting all that money in early February that I would try to last me to the end of the year.

I was born in America and have never spent any amount of significant time in Asia, but I am grateful for the traditions my parents and grandparents had, and were able to pass along in my otherwise very American life growing up in suburban Southern California.

Gong Xi Gong Xi! Gong Xi Fa Tsai! Hong Bao Na Lai!

1 comment:

x said...

i once saw an ac/dc cover band with a female lead singer who had that waving cat tattooed on her inner bicep.