New Year Traditions Redux, Chinese Style

5 Feb

Happy Chinese New Year!

This is a post for MegaMom’s tag on New Year traditions. With the Chinese New Year barely two days away, I feel compelled to clear my long-standing debts, this being very first in my list.

Here are the rules: Answer this question: What’s your New Year good luck tradition?
Then copy the names and answers of the people that answered before you and add your own to the bottom of the list. It helps build the community.

*My mom used to collect some coins and when the new year comes she put the coins in a bowl and shake it to create sounds. She said its good luck for money throughout the year. And also wearing dotted dresses on new year don’t know why. CC/chalyza/keep

*My old folks always told us to avoid spending money on new years day. They said, once you spend on the first day of the year, you like to spend the rest of the year. Behind d Scenes of ME/ Retchel’s Pure Life/ A little bit of me  

*I grew up believing that if you have some money on your pocket (whatever you’re wearing) come New Year’s eve it will ensure steady flow of income throughout the year. The other belief is that the main door of the house should be wide open come New Year’s eve so that good luck will be ushered in. Juliana of MY WORLD and JULIANA’S LAIR.

* We always lit fireworks (Chinese belief) as part of tradition to scare off “bad spirits” and start the New Year with a blast. Hailey of Hailey’s Beats and Bits

*We have our family worship when the sun sets on January 31st and we have thankfulness prayer when 12 o’clock strikes. In this way, my mom thinks that if we pray this time with thankfulness we gonna pray over and over again throughout the incoming new year. Sunshineforlife of Life is What We Make it// Dancing in Midlife Tune.

*New Year’s Eve is always special because it also happens to be my parents’ anniversary. We always started the day by going to church. Then it would be a day of setting off firecrackers. Dinner is light to pave way for media noche or midnight meal. Media noche always had arroz caldo and buko fruit salad – true Pinoy comfort foods. For good luck, we had a bowl of various round fruits, shaped like money (coins obviously and not paper), which we always found hard to resist eating until the clock strikes twelve. What am I doing talking in past tense? We still do this now, as my own family heads off to my parents’ house to celebrate with them. Pinay MegaMom

 ~0~

I grew up in a fairly liberal Chinese-Filipino household. My father wanted us to think, grow, and live outside the “box of traditions” so he made it a point to create our own rituals for special feasts. Still, it wasn’t always easy to get away from prescriptions and taboos, what with a feisty grandmother hovering around with a list of do’s and don’ts.

Some that I still remember:

· Do not sweep the floor on Chinese New Year’s Day; you’re sweeping out good luck. (Make sure your house is spic and span before the N day.) If you must sweep, make sure that you do not throw dirt away on that day. Keep it inside the house and bring it out the back door the next day. Never sweep over the front door threshold as this means “sweeping away” a family member. (To this day, I keep my front door closed most of the time so no one inadvertently sweeps over this. Old habits die hard, true, true.)

· Same rule with hair washing. Have your hair washed, styled, and coiffed the night before. It may be hard to sleep with little ringlets or curlers on your head but deal with it. After all, New Year’s day only comes once a year. Or twice, in our case.🙂

· Wear red (even if it’s a little too early for Valentine’s Day, haha) because red ensures a bright future. I always got in trouble with this one because I always wore pink. Pink is a light, sweet, romantic color, but to many, it’s simply washed-out red, so it literally meant I was setting myself up for a washed-out future.

· Make a lot of noise on the stroke of midnight to drive away evil spirits. We used to do this with fireworks but since a lot of the smaller kids had asthma, we made do with banging kitchen pots and pans, howling like banshees, and making a**es of ourselves.

When I was young, Chinese New Year’s Eve meant a mandatory trip to the Big House, as feisty grandma’s house was called. As I grew older, Daddy decided to stop dragging us along and started establishing our own rituals. Yes, much of the same superstitious traditions were observed, but this time, dinner was a joyful experience as we took part in preparations, from setting the table to cooking to preparing ang pao (little red envelopes with new crisp bills of cash or sweet candies). Red and orange and violet and pink (yes, pink!) were our colors. We set the table with fresh flowers (to symbolize life and prosperity) and round fruits of all sorts (round to symbolize wealth and money). And then there was the menu. We always had tikoy or New Year’s rice pudding as a dessert staple. Tikoy embodied all the attributes prayed for at the start of the year: closer family ties/ unity (sticky), prosperity (sweet), and reunion (round), and it was said that to have a fill of this dessert meant having a fill of luck. I usually ate two or three boxes myself.

There was also always a noodle dish on New Year’s Eve and we are careful not to cut the noodles accidentally or purposefully. Noodles symbolize longevity of life and to cut it necessarily means cutting away at life.

While the Chinese do not mind having whole chicken on New Year’s Eve, my Filipino upbringing struggles with this tradition. Normally, Filipinos avoid chicken dishes on the New Year because it is said to be a harbinger for subsistence living (isang kahig, isang tuka—or loosely translated, one scratch, one peck). As a compromise, Daddy opted for duck (symbolizing fidelity), prepared Peking style, or turkey, prepared American Thanksgiving style, with lots of stuffing and cranberry sauce. (How confusing can this be?)

These days, with all the children grown and leading very different lives, Chinese New Year celebration is a thing of our past. With New Year’s Eve falling on a weekday, and my siblings all busy with work and family, we make do with text messages or phone calls to commemorate the day. Yet, just as Daddy cut tradition with his family, this time, I am carving my family’s very own celebrations and memories. I’ll be keeping my Dad’s practices to heart, making sure to observe them the way we did when we were small.

I don’t have any blogging Chinese friends, but if any one wants to follow this up, feel free to grab this tag. 

And hey, Kiong Hee Huat Chai, my friends!  (Congratulations and be prosperous!)

Sun Nin Fai Lok! (Happy New Year!)

Drive evil spirits away!

2 Responses to “New Year Traditions Redux, Chinese Style”

  1. leira February 5, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    wow.. ang ganda naman ng tradition na yun.. even if di na na practice its still a great memory and reminder of the past…

    I agree. It’s always great to have a little slice of the past to hold on to. ~♥Kittymama

  2. megamomph February 5, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    Wow, thanks for the lengthy, well-thought out response to my tag. Thanks for the glimpse into your “Chinese life”, something that we hardly ever talked about before in HS, I think.

    I only appreciated that part of me when we grew older, so I think it was a conscious effort on my part to “hide” that aspect of my life when we were younger. My parents were also very keen to have us break the box so they sent us to non-Chinese schools (as a result, I only know a few cuss words). Still, as we all get older, our roots, whether desired or unwanted, ground us into a fuller life. I know it’s a part of me that I certainly would wish to share with my children and future grandchildren. ~♥Kittymama

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