Gong Xi Fa Cai!

“Gong Xi Fa Cai”, means “Wishing you prosperity in the New Year” in Mandarin, and it’s what you say for Chinese New Year.  We celebrated  “New Years Eve” on Saturday night, and did our best to follow the tradition of feasting with friends, wearing red (although Miles dressed like a Ninja – all black with a ski mask), lighting firecrackers, and passing out red envelopes.  It was a super fun night.  Miles said it was the best night ever.  But he says that a lot.

I love the Chinese New Years traditions and superstitions.  Usually we go down to China Town, or ‘The International District’ as it’s also called, to see the dragon parade, the drummers, and other festivities.  Instead, this year we decided to invite some of Nadine’s friends’ families over to for dinner, and to watch ‘the China Video’ of when we got her.

Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, is the most important holiday in China.  It lasts for 15 days, beginning on the first new moon of the year, and ending on the full moon.  It is a time of new beginnings and intentions – out with the old and in with the new!  It is about family, friends, home, and food.  All debts should be cleared and all quarrels should be resolved before New Years.  The house should be cleaned thoroughly to ensure a fresh start.  It’s also time for an attitude adjustment, to be optimistic, and is no time for laziness.  Here are some of the other Chinese New Year traditions:

  • Wishes are hung throughout the house that say things like:  ‘happiness’, ‘wealth’, ‘prosperity’, and ‘good fortune’. ‘Fu’ is the word for good luck in Chinese, and is often hung upside-down in order to catch the good luck.  Fu was Nadine’s middle name when we got her, and she is my little good luck charm.

    fu chinese character

    The Fu character – upside down it means ‘arriving’.

  • The color red is predominate, as it is a sign of luck, associated with sun, fire, brightness, and life’s energy.
  • Fresh flowers or bamboo are displayed to welcome spring.
  • Everyone stays up late on Chinese New Years Eve, even the kids.  The later your kids stay up, the longer life you will have.
  • Firecrackers are set off at midnight to scare away the evil spirits and to energize you.
  • Red envelopes filled with ‘lucky money’ get passed out to the children as a symbol of good luck and protection.

There is even symbolism behind the food that is served.  Our menu was: egg rolls (brushed with oil and baked rather than deep fried), brown rice (done in the oven to save room on the stove), string beans (stir fried with soy sauce and ginger), a whole duck (I got it pre-cooked at the Chinese grocery store – including the head), a whole fish (on the grill stuffed with garlic, ginger, and lemongrass), fried tofu (made with the help of our guests!), sliced oranges (with rose water and honey), fortune cookies for desert, and delicious ginger beer cocktails (I highly recommend these).

The egg rolls symbolize prosperity.  A whole duck or a whole fish is for abundance.  Long string beans equal a long life, as do long noodles or long grain rice.  Oranges are esteemed for their round shape and gold color and are symbols of good fortune.  Fortune cookies were invented in this country, and are just plain fun.

After dinner we had a dance party in the basement.  Miles and his buddy went a little nutty, taking their shirts off and putting dragon tattoos on their chests.

Miles with his dragon tattoo

And then we watched the movie.  I hadn’t watched our China video for a very long time, and was surprised at how different I looked back in 2005, with short dark hair.  There was a time when Nadine watched that movie every chance she got, when she was about 3 years old.  She called it the “When I Was a Baby I Was In China” video.  But we haven’t watched it much since then, and I think she really enjoyed having her friends see it. I think she just really loved the whole evening, and the fact that we were celebrating her holiday.

After the movie it was pretty late – about 10:30 pm.  But we couldn’t leave without some fireworks.  We had party poppers, and those funny things that explode when you throw them on the ground, some fire bombs, and best of all, roman candles!

chinese new year fireworks

The kids stayed up late, so we should have nice long lives, and the fireworks were loud and bright, so we shouldn’t have to worry too much about evil spirits this year.

Happy Lunar New Year!  Wishing you prosperity in the year of the water snake!

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