Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kong Hei Fatt Choy!!! Happy Lunar New Year of the Dragon

Today, January 23rd 2012 is the Lunar New Year. That's being very correct. In my family, we say Happy Chinese New Year or "Kong Hei Fatt Choy", which translated literally means "Wishing you great prosperity". The Chinese are big on prosperity and fortune and luck, and all other things which involve making more money. That's basically the sum total of the good wishes that abound during this time of the year.

This is also the year of the Dragon, more specifically the year of the Water Dragon. It's also The Boy's year 'cos he is a Water Dragon. Most auspicious for him. I hope this means his year will be tremendous and great things will come. :-)

Chinese New Year (CNY) usually runs for 30 days and celebrations start on the night before the 1st day of CNY with a family Reunion Dinner. This involves the whole family congregating for a meal at the home of the oldest or most senior member of the family. It usually includes a lot of food, many of them with very auspicious sounding names like "Hou See Fatt Choy" which means "good things, prosper greatly". The dish involved "Hou See" which is Chinese for oysters and "Fatt Choy" which is a kind of seaweed.

Reunion Dinner at The Sister's home in London

The 1st day of CNY involves visiting with family, usually "going home" to the parents' home (on the male's / husband's side of the family) and paying our respects. Red packets filled with a token amount of money as a symbol of good luck given by the married members of the family to the children and other unmarried members of the family. These are also given to friends who are visited or who visit during CNY.

The 2nd day of CNY is usually a vegetarian day. This means the first meal of the day to "Hoy Leen" which means to "open the new year" is vegetarian. I must confess I do not know the symbolism and reason for the vegetarian food on the day. This is also the day for visiting the female's or wife's side of the family to pay respects to the grandparents on that side of the family.

Some traditions that I remember growing up during CNY include not cutting your hair until after the 2nd day of CNY because if you did it before, you'd cut away all your luck. Same went with sweeping with brooms and washing the hair - both involved getting rid of your luck and you did not want that. I remember The Mother the night before the 1st day of CNY going around the house and hiding all the brooms in the house after we came home from our grandmother's house from the Reunion Dinner.

These days, since the passing of The Paternal Grandmother, many of the uncles and other relatives moving away to other countries, CNY is a much quieter affair, usually celebrated on a much lower key that it used to be. This year we had an early Reunion Dinner at The Parents' house prior to their trip to the UK to visit The Sister and The Nephew (mostly it's to visit The Nephew, who is also Grandchild Number One).

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