Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gung hei fat choi!

A popular greeting at Chinese New Year... it translate into something like "May you explode with happiness!"

When I was really little, my family used to go to my grandmother's house for Chinese New Year. My Mom and my aunt used to help my grandmother with the cooking. Everything would be prepared in the kitchen. When the dishes were cooked and ready, they would be brought out to a table that was set up in the living room by the fireplace mantle. Above the mantle was my grandfather's photo. He died when my Mom was 15 so I never met him. I always only knew him from the black and white photo above my grandmother's fireplace mantle. When all the food for Chinese New Year was ready, my grandmother would light a stick of incense, then my Mom, then my aunt, and then my uncle. They solemnly intoned words in Chinese, bringing in the new year I think, but I was too young to understand what they were saying or what was going on. When I was a little older, I got to help light the incense and got to drink the water from the little white cups that were set out with the food. At the time I had no idea what was going on but essentially it was Chinese ancestor worship, worshiping my dead grandfather whom I had never met.

When that part was done, all the children were given hong bao, red Chinese envelopes with cash. Then all the food was brought back into the kitchen and the whole family sat down to eat together at the long table in the center of the room.

Tonight, Max and I celebrated Chinese New Year simply. Cards were mailed out to our parents two weeks ago so they would arrive in China and Canada on time - which they did. Max's parents called last night (time difference) to wish him a happy new year and ask about his studies. We made Chinese for dinner... rice, dofu and lop chung stirfry, and one of my favorite Chinese dishes, sea and sky chicken. For dessert, we had mandarin oranges (all the way from Morocco!). And we watched House of Flying Daggers. Simple but very Chinese.
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