|Chinese New Year Lanterns|
Talking to my Taiwanese friends here has revealed interesting differences in points of view about Christmas, New Years and Chinese New Years. Christmas for me (being of British and Kiwi extraction) is all about getting together with your family, eating stupid amounts of food, relaxing and doing large amounts of nothing at all. Christmas for my Taiwanese friends is more of a romantic holiday - time to take someone special out for a nice meal. The same goes for my Japanese sister-in-law. Christmas is all about the lurve.
Compare this with my concept of New Years (not Chinese) which basically revolves around friends and fun times with varying amounts of celebratory vino (less and less as I get closer to being of a respectable age) and of course a massive countdown to midnight followed by epic fireworks. In Taiwan, this is pretty much how it goes down, but in Japan it's different - there it's a family celebration, and time, I understand, to go along to the temple and pray for good fortune.
Now we come to Chinese New Year - what I've come to think of as Chinese culture's answer to a Western Christmas. It's whole family together time, with much eating and merry-making. The gift of choice for younger family members are the coveted 'hong-bao' (red envelopes containing money) and almost every dish on the table has some significance. I'm no expert and this isn't intended to be a serious anthropological piece but I can tell you this: At midnight when we are celebrating new year with my parents in law, we are served a massive plate of steaming water dumplings. These dumplings are significant because they look like little money bags and so eating them is thought to bring prosperity. But here's the catch - you can't keep count of how many you're eating, or else you will limit the amount of money that you will get in that year. Of course, once I was told this all I could hear in my head as I ate them was "One.... two... STOP IT!..... three.....four...."!
|Chinese New Year dinner 2009|
Credit: Kathryn Liu 2009
As for me, my Chinese new year's eve is drawing to a close. I'm snuggled up on the couch with a snoring doggy by my side, a full tummy and the dulcet tones of half of my neighbourhood setting off what seems to be all of the gunpowder products on this side of the Taiwan Strait in the park behind my apartment building. I hope that the Year of the Rabbit is a peaceful, happy, healthy and prosperous time for all of you.