Year of The Ox
Year of more challenges, of new beginnings, new ideas, time of change, removing the old, welcome the new, ways to stay healthy.
Ah, Healthy. Important aspect of life, young and old.
A time to reflect on who we are and how we lead our lives, make order in family life.
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, is a time to give thanks to those who had strongly influenced us – past and present.
The Ox is very hardworking and methodical.
2021 will be a year when hard work will get rewarded, lots of hard work by everyone will stimulate economic recovery and progress.
Chinese New Year Eve …
Do you know that Chinese New Year Eve is considered more important than Chinese New Year Day?
It is the day when families remember their ancestors, absent loved ones, come together with a ‘stay-at-home’ dinner – from all parts of country, or from other parts of the globe; a gathering to reminisce, catch up with siblings, extended families over The Reunion Dinner – extravagant dinner with lots of old-time favourites for everyone’s enjoyment.
Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandkids, great-grandkids, boyfriends, girlfriends come together for this reunion dinner.
A time to remind ourselves of respect – respect of elders, of ‘learned-authorities’; respect for each other.
A time to teach young ones of respect – that respect is usually earned not given easily.
A time of remembrance …
A time of happiness, laughter, camaraderie, contentment.
On New Year’s Eve, in by-gone days, families eat dinner in their homes fortified by red decorations. At midnight, firecrackers are sounded to ward against demons in human world.
Firecrackers are meant to scare off demons and bad luck, welcoming new year with good luck.
What is included in traditional reunion dinner?
Dishes served are usually to give blessings for coming new year; with names and looks symbolizing wishes of prosperity, happiness, and auspiciousness.
Spring rolls, deep-fried, baked, or steamed, served as snacks or appetizer for prosperity and wealth, as they look like bars of gold.
Dumplings, Northern China’s equivalent to spring rolls, shaped like ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots – wrapping dumplings is symbolic to wrapping good fortune; eating dumplings gives you wealth and prosperity. (Photos: dumpling photo courtesy of Satay Ria Restaurant Cannon Hill, Qld).
Long, uncut egg noodles, symbolize golden threads of ‘longevity’ – served with meats and veggies gives more significance – eggs for big, healthy family, lobster for endless wealth, prawns – good fortune, roast pork for peace, duck for loyalty, tofu for happiness and good fortune for family.
Whole fish, steamed or fried signifies ‘surplus and wealth’ – that you will continue to enjoy surplus of food and wealth throughout the year.
‘Raw Fish’ (‘Yu Sang’ in Cantonese) or ‘Prosperity Toss Salad’ is a must for Chinese New Year, giving vitality and prosperity. Tossing and mixing ‘Yu Sang’ or ‘lo hei’ enables you to ’increase in abundance’ opportunities to better yourself. (Yu Sang photo below: courtesy of delicious.com.au).
Traditionally, each guest tosses the salad with chopsticks whilst reciting auspicious wishes for abundance, vigor and prosperity in coming year. Lots of fun and laughter by everyone !
Do you know early versions of ‘Yu Sang’ are thought to have existed in South China, but it is South-East Asian Chinese from Malaysia and Singapore that created modern version and popularized this custom !
In southern China, Fujian, Guangdong provinces and Hong Kong, radish cakes or ‘cai tou’ are also served, symbolizing good luck and fortune. You can usually find them in dim sum restaurants or Chinese supermarkets. Just yummy !
Wherever you are, ‘Nian gao’ or New Year cake is a must for Chinese New Year. “Gao’ means tall or high – indicating each year will be higher or better than previous. Made from glutinous rice or yellow rice, representing silver or gold blocks of ancient times. Sliced and fried, with or without accompaniments ‘nian gao’ is served as a sweet snack or savory dish.
Steamed whole chicken represents reunion and rebirth – usually offered to ancestors for blessings and protection, then cut to serve at reunion dinner.
Mixed vegetable dish signifies good harvest, mixed with added specialties – seaweed for wealth and good fortune, lotus seeds for fertility, bamboo shoots for longevity, onwards and upwards in fortune, melon and grapefruit for family and hope, leek and chives for longevity and mushrooms for blessings and prosperity.
Chinese New Year Day …
First order of the day is to give thanks at local Chinese Temple with offerings of fruits and incense-sticks – remembrance of ancestors, good crop and harvest, good fortune and prosperity.
Battling through human traffic in temple; a spot to light your incense-sticks, a spot to kneel and give thanks and finally a spot to place your incense-sticks. Ambience is tremendous – incense infused smoke filled the air – fragrant, heady, cloudy almost eye-watering – fond memory to cherish.
Like all places of worship, there is always a spot of peace and tranquility – usually in Goddess of Mercy chapel (‘Quan Yin Tang’). Not to be missed when you visit a temple. Another fond memory.
After that, it is time to celebrate beginning of another year !
Lots of reds, golds, yellows splashed everywhere; in shops, restaurants, homes celebrating this special day.
Lots of snacks, sweet and savory; yummy almond biscuits, tangy pineapple tarts, peanut puffs, ‘love letters’ – rolled or folded; list is endless !
Lots of visiting – your elders first, then aunts and uncles, cousins and then more relatives and friends …
Young ones get Red Packets or ‘Ang Pow’; older married ones give them !
No matter where you are, across the globe, celebrate and share in joy, festivities and well-wishes showered by one and all on this happy occasion.