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My Chinese New Years Growing Up

weather: cloudy
outside: 6°C
mood: nostalgic
For yueni =)

We didn't celebrate Chinese New Year much and we still don't. We rarely got the Lunar New Year day off from work and school, so it was always a minimalist celebration. Nowadays, schools in the GVRD will purposely schedule a Teaching Professional Day and companies usually give everyone at least one floating holiday that they can use either for the Easter 4-day weekend or to use some other time.

My parents immigrated to Canada with almost nothing with them. There were a lot of customs that they dropped because it cost money that really wasn't necessary to spend. As a result, I understand a lot of the customs but only actually participating in the ones that are practical to participate in.

Going back even further, they grew up in the crazy times when Mao was in charge. Even with Zhou En Lai holding things together as much as he could, it was still madness. Anyone could be persecuted on the turn of a dime. Bourgeois habits were stomped. But, realistically, the entire nation was fighting to not starve. My Mother-in-Law describes my parents as Intellectuals (知識分子). The eminently practical.

The only time I did much was when my Chinese school organized it. But by then, I was already an aloof teenager and wasn't sure what I was or hadn't quite ironed out my Chinese/Western duality. Still, I remember the Chinese school senior grades would do morality plays and calligraphy banners, 春聯 (chun1lian2). I loved calligraphy. I loved hearing that my brush strokes had "strength". It was a huge high to get the taut curvature of bamboo resisting a light bend and then a sharp upward flick into a beautiful hook.

We don't post charms or the calligraphy banners on our walls. We don't have an upside down square fu anywhere. The fu is turned upside down because "" (dao4, meaning "inverted") is homophonous with "" (dao4, meaning "to arrive"). So having it upside down is to encourage the good tidings to come to your house. =)

We usually go out for dinner with closest family. And we always eat fish. "" (fish) being homophonous with "" (extra/surplus) to signify "abundance" in the coming year. And being from Southern China where fishing is an important industry, we never flip the fish over to get at the meat on the other side. You cut and lift the spine.

We have 年糕 (nian2gao1), the glutinous rice flour New Year cake.

Dropping chopsticks was a no-no. It meant starting off the year getting scolded. And you tried not to get in trouble on New Year's Day.

I went with whatever my Mother-in-Law wanted to do for the Chinese holidays. My Mom was only too happy that I was learning that kind of stuff =) M-I-L is a very talented cook. If she wanted to make 年糕, 湯圓, other dumplings or 粽子 or whatever, I'd tag along on the shopping trip and help knead, wrap, press, fold, etc. So, I've learned a lot about Taiwanese (Min and Kejia) customs, how they're similar and different from Cantonese customs. When she was in town, we'd sometimes combine some elements. If there was something that I strongly believed in and it didn't really matter in Min or Kejia, she'd let me do my thing. If there was something they do where there wasn't a specific rule I knew of, we'd do it her way. When she isn't around, I'd just go and buy a few token things for my parents and for ourselves.

We don't quite follow the New Year's Day with the Husband's family, the Second of the Year with the Wife's Maternal family thing. It's always been whatever's convenient. Neither side really minds, so it's just a matter of scheduling.


Jan. 22nd, 2004 01:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's why I try to get into it if I can.


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