Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shedding Some of the Traditions..but not the Happiness of the New Year

In China, the New Year is the most important holiday of the year--like a combination of our Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's celebrated on the first day of the year, according to the Lunar Calendar, and vacillates between late January and early February. This is the first time I remember the new year falling on Valentine's Day. How often does that happen? According to the LA times, about three times a century.

The holiday starts on the eve (this year, February 13). Certain foods hold great meaning. A whole chicken symbolizes family togetherness. Long noodles represent long life. (It's actually considered bad luck to cut the noodles.) Spring rolls and clams symbolize wealth. Sweet sticky rice symbolizes a rich sweet life. Many foods symbolize abundance, including: oranges, tangerines and fish.

When we first married, I went to great lengths to try to learn and follow all the Chinese traditions. I spent days--or perhaps it just felt like it--in the kitchen. I bought decorations depicting little boys and girls (again the symbol of goodness). We wrote out spring poems to put on our walls and gave the children hongbao (little red packets filled with money.)

These days, though--perhaps because we're nestled in the CA mountains far away from the center of all these traditions--I've lost my manic concern. While we make sure to eat a meal together, it could be anything. (This year, my eldest son baked his signature salmon and my eldest daughter made brownies) About the only tradition we stick to--to avoid a youth uprising--is giving the kids hongbao. And I realized that although the symbols are fascinating and the foods delicious, the being together is the fun part, the talking about your year--your plans, hopes and dreams. Cause in day to day life, how often do you get to do that?



Tokyo Biker Mommy said...

Thanks for the post! We ended up having a great family day yesterday and i didn't realize it was the New Year - now i see we were in line with tradition. ;-)

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Exactly! You must have known on some deeper level.:)

オテモヤン said...


Lynn said...

Thanks for sharing the meaning of some of these foods (a whole chicken, long noodles, etc.). Fascinating!

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