So its Chinese New Year today, Monday February 8th and we’re entering into the Year of The Monkey. So what does that mean? Mostly a night off, time with family and a lot of food!
On New Years Eve we all need to meet up as a family to have a “Reunion Dinner” (年夜飯) and celebrate.
There’s a few traditions involved with this.
There’s always chicken and pork dishes and you can have 8,9 or 10 dishes of food on the table for the family to share.
Fish (魚, yú) is included, but intentionally not finished, and the remaining fish is stored overnight. The reason for this stems from a pun, as the Chinese phrase 年年有魚/餘; (nián nián yǒu yú, or “every year there is fish/leftover”) sounds like a phrase which means “be blessed every year” or “have profit every year”.
Similarly, a type of black hair-like algae, “fat choy”(髮菜, fǎ cài, literally “hair vegetable” in Chinese), is also featured in many dishes since its name sounds similar to “prosperity”(發財, fā cái).
It’s very important when you’re having your dinner that you finish all your rice as its disrespectful not to.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve become part of a Chinese family (and embracing it all) is its best to just roll with all aspects of the culture and traditions and not ask any questions!
Yes I might spend a half day rearranging my house and the restaurant, putting different coloured lights in various places and trying to put “water features” in places where they don’t want to go to suit the years feng shui (風水) but at the end of it all its actually good fun trying to figure out how to find something blue and heavy that I can hang off the stairs because it’s a bad spot this year. When Charlie shows up with his little magic book and his compass I just do what I’m told!
So today I’ll be wearing all my red clothes (lucky colour) and wishing everyone a Gung Hey Fat Choi/Happy New Year (恭喜發財) having a big family lunch and most especially eating Nian Gao.
It is considered good luck to eat nian gao during this time, because “nian gao” is a homonym for “higher year.” The Chinese word 粘 (nián), meaning “sticky”, is identical in sound to 年, meaning “year”, and the word 糕 (gāo), meaning “cake” is identical in sound to 高, meaning “high or tall”. As such eating nian gao has the symbolism of raising oneself taller in each coming year (年年高升 niánnián gāoshēng).
I hope you all have a great New Year’s.
I hope to see you all during the week!