by Toffler



Lunar New Year’s Dinner

Saturday marked the start of the Lunar New Year holiday as it was New Year’s Eve.  Lunar New Year in China is like Christmas, New Years, and 4th of July all rolled into one massive holiday.  Its a very important family time, religious time, and also a time for presents and celebration.

On New Year’s Eve, my friend celebrated with her family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, by having 12 people altogether for dinner.  She was kind enough to invite me.  It was a real treat, partaking in an authentic Chinese family celebration.

I brought a gift to the host, as is customary.  I had asked my other Chinese friends what is an acceptable gift.  They suggested fruit, wine, chocolate, or cake.  I opted for fruit.  Flowers are never an appropriate gift as they are only given as gifts to dead people.

When I arrived she had made a few flower arrangements to brighten up their apartment and her parents were still cooking.  My friend had set up an elephant next to oranges, a bit of a curious combination until she explained the Chinese pronunciation, which when put together sounds similar to ‘lucky’ in Chinese and therefore is a way of wishing for luck.  There are many many such symbols in Chinese language/culture.  Another such example is putting ‘fu’ upside down so that the ‘fu’ (luck or prosperity) comes to you.

Her parents had been cooking all day as was quite apparent by the quantity of dishes that had already been prepared.  As appetizers they had an assortment of nuts, fresh fruit, candies, and dried meats.  They set up a larger table to accommodate all 13 of us and once the rest of her family arrived we all sat down to dinner.

There seems to be a rule that everyone fit to drink must drink alcohol.  Multiple times I was questioned as to whether I had enough alcohol, but fortunately it was in a friendly manner and nowhere near the high pressure gan bei style of the previous week.

The table certainly fit everyone but was barely big enough for all the dishes.  I can’t imagine 1 kitchen and 1 family preparing so much good food. It was amazing–seafood, meat, veggies, tofu, & rice dishes.  She even remembered my dislike of seafood and then insisted that the dinner not be weighted to heavily on seafood and cooked mapo doufu to satisfy my love of mapo tofu.  Then dessert was never ending, 2 different kinds of rice-based cake, spring rolls, tofu rolls, 2 kinds of soup, lots of red bean.  Altogether many, many fantastic dishes.

After dinner we watched the CCTV New Year’s special on TV.  Her younger cousins received ‘hong bao,’ red envelopes filled with money from their aunts & uncles.  Children and college-age students all receive these money packets from older relatives.

It was such a wonderful experience.  Never before have I felt so included and been able to so fully partake in Chinese culture.  It was such a memorable experience and I hope I can offer the same back to my friend.

Thank you, Mikthy!  新年快乐!恭喜发财!

One Comment

  1. mikthy |

    hehe.. 🙂
    Dear Toffler,happy new year!
    And I want to say thank you too.
    You know, you make the new year’s eve different!

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