Celebrating Chinese New Year with Hugh
by Hugh Chan
This year, we celebrate the Year of the Dragon with a two-week celebration.
Our celebrations begin the night before, on Chinese New Year Eve. On this night, everyone from the family travels home to gather for a reunion complete with a huge meal. My mother would have spent the day preparing the Chinese New Year Eve dinner and the food for the following day.
We would have dishes that symbolize good luck and fortune. A staple with almost all families is black moss, which translates in Chinese to Fat Choy which means Good Fortune, and Dried Oysters, which translates to Ho See meaning Good Deeds / Good News / Prosperity.
At the end of the night, the elders of the family will give us a Red Envelope to put under our pillows before our sleep. The Red Envelopes contain money, and putting them under our pillows before we sleep represents ending the year with Good Fortune.
The next day, my mom wakes up at 5am to start cooking all the food she prepared from the night before. Once the meal is ready and placed on the dining table in a big feast, we join together to light incense and burn papers to welcome the gods and ancestors to eat first.
The first meal of the day will be all vegetarian dishes including vermicelli noodles, mushrooms, black bean with tofu, cooked cabbage, and more.
Then anyone who is not married will go to the married members of the family to wish them good luck and share blessings. In return, they’ll receive a Red Envelope for Good Fortune, symbolizing starting the year with Good Fortune.
After the first meal, you can eat meat throughout the rest of the day. Dishes include white rice; a whole steamed chicken; roasted pig; stir fry vermicelli noodles with mushrooms, tofu, and black beans; and stir fry cauliflower.
Other traditions we uphold include not sweeping or taking out the garbage for five days, as it’s believed if you do so, you’re sweeping out good luck and wealth from your home. You also can’t use knives or scissors as it can lead to bad luck.