Last 31st of January was the Lunar New Year, in other words known as “Chinese New Year”.
The celebration of the Lunar New Year is based on a calendar that originated in China in the 14th century B.C., which, in its earliest form, was connected to the Chinese agricultural cycle.
My own family is part Chinese but growing up in the Philippines, the extent of our observance of Chinese New Year was , well–watching dragon dance if it happened to be there, or scoring a good buffet meal at Mandarin Oriental Manila (this happened twice).
My family celebrated the ‘international’ Christmas and New Year (December 25 and January 1), and Chinese New Year was more like a novelty every now and then. Most years it (Chinese New Year) just passed by in the household like any normal day.
Until I got to know Zombie, (whose family is Malaysian-Chinese), I didn’t really know that Chinese New Year was seriously observed. Like, mega big deal. Families fly from overseas to celebrate. Travel-wise, I know this is a big deal because airfares around Southeast Asia spike up like crazy around end of Jan-early Feb (which is usually when the Chinese New Year is).
And when I moved to Sydney, I gauged Chinese New Year whenever there’s a Dragon Boat competition (when I used to join).
This year, Zombie and I got invited to his relatives house on Saturday to have a Chinese New Year celebration.
And for the first time, I got to see what really happens during Chinese New Year.
Yee Sang or Yu Sheng, is a salad made of strips of vegetables such as radish, papaya, carrots, with strips of smoked salmon in it. This particular dish also had pomegranate seeds in it (extra healthy!)
It is believed that this salad dish should be tossed as high as possible before serving (by ALL family members and guests). The higher you toss, the more prosperous you will be for the year.
We all gathered round the table (all 12 of us!)
And at the shout of “Yeeeeee Saaaang!” we all started tossing the nicely presented dish with our chopsticks.
I must admit, I could have done a better job at tossing higher. Because the whole the time, I was just gaping at how MESSY this activity was! Everyone was really serious in getting the tosses high up in the air.
And this resulted to:
Despite the mess, I do have to say the Yee Sang is one of the best and most refreshing salads I’ve ever tasted!
It’s unfortunate that this is served only during Chinese New Year. It was seriously so good, I looked up a recipe and SBS seems to have a good one. Now I’ll have to find out if it’s good or bad omen to make the Yee Sang on a normal day. Anyone know?
My clairvoyance worked. On this particular day, I predicted lots of food. Lots and lots of Glorious food.
Such an accurate prediction! 😉
There seems to be a long list of food considered to bring prosperity and good luck for Chinese New Year. For this particular Saturday, we had hot pot noodle soup. It had lots of mushrooms, dumplings, fish balls, and veggies. Loved the hearty broth! Zombie not only had seconds, but a FOURTH serving by the end of the day. It truly was a fantastic soup dish. Very light yet filling.
And lest we forget, these were the marvellous desserts and snacks that we feasted on the entire afternoon and evening.
We had lychee and mint as the main dessert, and an assortment of candies, nuts, pastries, and chinese biscuits like egg rolls, stickr rice bars, and of course, fortune cookies.
There was also an amazing thousand layer cake (above right) that was so good. I heard it took hours and hours to make this cake as each layer had to be baked separately before manually layering on top of another. It was so good (a light cinnamon flavour) and very worth the long hours if I may say so (as I wasn’t the one who slaved away for this labour of yummy love until 4AM!)
After dessert, the entire family gathered in the living room. The matriarch and patriarch of the family sat while all children offered them tea. In turn, the children were given red envelopes (containing money).
As Zombie and I were married, we didn’t do the tea ceremony as we cannot be recipients of the red envelope, and as a married couple, gave every non-married person in the family a red envelope.
To put it quite bluntly, it sucks to be married during Chinese New Year! 😉
We arrived at the house with a bag full of coins. We don’t gamble normally but apparently, it is only in Chinese New Year that gambling is not frowned upon.
The game of gamble we played was 21 with playing cards. Apparently if you wear red underwear, you will up your chances of winning. And your loss or victory in this gamble will pave the way of how things will be for your year.
Overall , we won more than we lost (my highest bid ever was 60 cents, Zombie’s a dollar.) But I hear that some families do gamble by the hundreds and thousands.
Gambling was the last event for the day.
A miscellaneous tidbit, on this day I discovered that birds can actually be good pets!
I’m NOT a bird fan. I don’t like them at all. The street and beach ones especially (pigeons, seagulls, pelicans, magpies, ibis, etc)- I see them as rodents of the skies and disease carriers.
I swear I would never play with one.
Until I met Milo. This green baby parrot is so tame and adorable! It’s actually making me consider getting one 😉
Do you have bird pets? How are you liking it?
We left home with a ‘love pack’ – food and drinks in a glittery red and heart bag that had peanuts, wafers, candies and chocolates- 2 of everything!
So this was my first ‘official’ Chinese New Year celebration. I do like it and think it’s interesting. I’m sure there’s got to be some sort of health program to those who observe both the previous holidays like Christmas, New Years, Australia Day AND Chinese New Year. All pig-out events within weeks of each other, inside a month!
Here’s a quick chart of Chinese Zodiac if you are curious to know what animal you are.
Do you agree with your animal counterpart? Having said my piece about my dislike of birds, it’s quite ironic that I am a rooster! But I think it has described me perfectly.
I don’t believe in the yearly predictions. It’s year of the wooden horse and I’m not a fan of knowing what the seers say this year will turn out for me.
I like to be the master of my own fate, and not even the fortune cookie can sway me with the cryptic one-liners 🙂