Dorothy Chin Gerding of Smithfield, RI shares how she and her family celebrate Chinese New Year.
Gung Hey Fat Choy! Happy Lunar New Year! In China this is a month long celebration that brings families together from far and wide. Â Here in the United States, my own family and friends will make long distance calls to wish their loved ones good tidings of luck, joy, health, happiness, wealth, and even babies for the New Year.
Preparations start a week before as family matriarchs head to the local market to buy decorations for the house and groceries for the special meals. Parents are to ensure that everyone has a clean or new outfit to wear on New Year’s Day. Â Houses are to be clean and bills to be paid to start a clean slate for the New Year in hopes to signify that the coming year will be “smooth sailing”.
New Year’s Eve
In Hong Kong, each New Year’s eve, the children or “Mai Lan” go door to door to sell their “laziness” in hopes that they will work harder in school in the new year. Though I grew up in the states, this was probably one of my favorites since I would receive the highly coveted Red Envelopes or “Hung Bao”.
New Year’s Day
The big day is exciting and challenging for “little grasshoppers,” as children are to wake up happy, dressed in their fresh clothes, and greet their parents with tidings of fortune, health, longevity and a promise to be good for the year. Here’s where the good stuff comes, Parents will wish their children safety, advancement in school, and obedience as they hand over those beautifully gold embossed red envelopes, Hung Bao.
Not all red envelopes or “hung bao” are created equal; each carries its own blessing bearing signs of longevity such as a boat for smooth sailing or a tangerine for good fortune. These days licensing is king, so you might find Hello Kitty, Snoopy or even Mickey and Minnie carrying tangerines and peaches
One red envelope from each elder is like hitting the lottery for a child. It is rude to open an envelope in front of your elders so it was never a surprise that most children are hiding out in a corner counting up their loot. Two dollars from Great grandma, $20 from Gung Gung (Grandpa on Mom’s side), $10 from Jei Jei (Married older sister), $50 from Mom and Dad, which goes straight to the bank for college. Â In reality it all went to the bank for college, but the hopes were that you would get some of it for candy later.
Today my family will sit down to the traditional “start of the New Year” dinner which includes whole fish, whole chicken, noodles, roasted port and seaweed with sliced pork. There will also be Chinese turnips and oysters, rice and lots and lots of oranges. We will be missing a few members as some them are working or in other states. However Skype will allow us to be together to send salutations and well wishes for a Healthy and Wealthy Year of the Horse!
resources +Â books
- Stories from Old China – By Edward W Dolch
- Anything Oliver Chin
- Where to buy Chinese Red envelope and crafts: (chinasprout.com)
Dorothy Chin sometimes Gerding is a first generation Chinese American born and raised in Apple Valley Rhode Island.Â As a Design Director and mother of 2, she is constantly designing and redesigning her life as well as the life of others that will allow her.Â As an ex Californian she longs for 80 degree weather for her 3 dogs and 5 turtles so she bask away in the sun while eating frozen yogurt.