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Happy Chinese New Year and Year of the Horse! I grew up in a fairly traditional Cantonese-speaking family, and Chinese New Year has always been a very special holiday for me. As a young child, I knew Chinese New Year took place around the beginning of the year, but I didn’t fully grasp that the date was tied to the lunar calendar. I recall my mom pulling out a large Chinese calendar book and flipping through the pages to find the exact date.
Lots of planning went into getting ready for the traditional New Year's Eve family reunion dinner. I particularly enjoyed the shopping trips my mom and I took to Chinatown to purchase the special ingredients. The food we served was auspicious and symbolic, with the names of many of the dishes sounding like the Chinese pronunciations for “good fortune," "happiness" or "longevity.” Dishes and ingredients included chicken, roast pork, Chinese “hair” fungus, lettuce, dried oysters and fish. My favorite dish, which involved a labor-intensive mincing of many ingredients, was the dried oyster lettuce cups (with the Chinese name of the dish sounding like “good business”). I would stand next to my mom and watch her take great care as she prepared all the ingredients. When we got a food processor, I thought it would finally bring my mom some relief, but she still insisted on hand-chopping everything.
Traditional Chinese New Year Dinner
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As a mom myself now to two young boys, I cherish sharing and passing along the traditions. On New Year’s morning, I give my sons each a piece of candy with their red envelopes. Being given candy for breakfast makes them feel like they have the best mom ever! They also love going to Chinatown and watching the lion dancing, and we’ve had many ad hoc lion dance performances at home using makeshift drums and lion costumes fashioned out of blankets.
Gung Hay Fat Choy (as we would say in Cantonese, or in Mandarin, Xin Nian Kuai Le) to the Little Passports community!