As the year of the Tiger approaches, this Sunday, Xiaojie Wang, a young Chinese, western educated, woman from Nanjing, China’s ancient southern capital describes how she and her family celebrate Chinese New Year. Below is her first person account on how while China races ahead to globalise, some things like New Year celebrations remain rooted in tradition, family and symbolism.
Chinese New year has always been a time of family togetherness for my family. Although I now live in the city with my parents, we are originally from a small town. Since most of our relatives still live in the town, we go back to celebrate Chinese New Year every year.
On New Years Eve, my entire extended family gathers together at my grandmothers house for a large sumptuous new years eve dinner. Dumplings, Chicken, Peking duck, Sweet n Sour pork, and a steamed whole fish are all must haves on our dinner table. Symbolizing prosperity, abundance or longevity each of these foods has a special significance to us on New years eve. The food is washed down with Chinese rice wine called ‘Bai jiu’ in Mandarin literally meaning white wine. During the course of the meal, family members toast each other wishing good luck, prosperity and good health to all during the New Year. In order to give you a genuine taste of a traditional Chinese New Year meal, we had our friends at Healthy Living India cook up this Chinese New Year Dinner Menu.
After dinner, My cousins and I burst reams of of noisy firecrackers to scare away evil spirits, some of my relatives stay up all night to play cards. A tradition in my family is to watch the Chinese visit New Year celebration show of drama, dance and song on CCTV (China Central Television) together while eating snacks like sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, etc.
The next morning, we write New Year wishes on New Year scrolls (we call them Chun Lian, they are usually pasted on gateposts or door panels). We also worship our ancestors with food that they were fond of when they were alive, we burn ‘worship’ money (special notes that look exactly like real money used for worship purposes) and incense.
In the afternoon, relatives visit each other to give gifts and pocket-money in symbolic red envelopes to youngsters.
These are the major activities my family does for Chinese New Year. Other families might choose different ways to celebrate, some have less tradition to follow, and maybe only a family dinner would suffice. Some modern families might choose to go on a trip somewhere to celebrate the New Year. But of course, spending time with FAMILY is the common value shared among all Chinese during this time of the year.
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