春节快乐!(chun jie kuai le—Happy New Year!)

My husband and I met in Shanghai in June of 2004. Of course, it took a while before we became a couple, but we were definitely together when it came time for Chinese New Year in February 2005. By then, I had been living by myself in Shanghai for many years. I moved there from my hometown in northeast China to chase my dreams of big city life. When we met, I was living in a small apartment on the eighth floor, with no elevator. My future husband was NOT happy about that! I had almost no kitchen and didn’t really know how to cook much, especially a holiday meal. So I had another plan. I laugh a bit when I hear someone say Chinese food. To me, there is no such thing. China is a huge country, and every region has its own special taste, texture, seasoning and ingredients. In Chinese, northeast translates to Dongbei, and that style of cooking is my comfort food. Dumplings, fish, sweet potatoes, pork, flat beans and others are the taste of home to me. My husband was a bit surprised that I didn’t eat rice with every meal. In fact the food of my area is very much meat and potatoes.

春节快乐!
春节快乐!

So I felt lucky that just around the corner from my apartment was a small but authentic Dongbei restaurant. My plan was, we would have our Chinese New Year dinner there. I talked to the owners a few days ahead of time to arrange some special food and activities. In my home, the big tradition for the holiday was that everyone joined in to make dumplings. These have to be done just right, with the correct shape to signify the good fortune everyone hoped for with the New Year. The owners had a tray set up with wrappers and filling and utensils ready so we could make our own dumplings right in the restaurant. My future husband jumped right in and started to make some. Of course, they were oddly shaped, didn’t quite stay together like they should and maybe had a bit too much filling, but I didn’t care. I just thought it was great that he got into it and tried his best. He ate a bit of every dish I ordered and liked most of them. Other customers were staring at this strange foreigner and the restaurant workers tried to talk to him and were laughing at his work, but we all had a great time. My husband had done a lot of travel for his company and was always very respectful of other countries and cultures which made me so happy.

春节快乐!
春节快乐!

I remember it was raining that night, but after dinner, we still walked along the wet streets in my neighborhood. We bought some sparklers and stayed out until midnight so we could light them and wave them around while we watched and heard the huge fireworks display that always takes place that night. We were acting silly and giggling and I felt like a little girl again. I think that was the time I really felt I could have a future with this man. Here I was, 2000 kilometers from my home, family and friends but for the first Chinese New Year in many years, I didn’t feel alone at all. Everyone knows that holidays can be very difficult on people. If you’re alone they can make you feel even more by yourself. And even if you’re with someone, but maybe not the right someone the added stress and pressure around a holiday can make or break a relationship. I’m happy to say, that on that Chinese New Year 10 years ago, it was the beginning of my new life and I’ve been loving it ever since!

春节快乐!
春节快乐!

I hope you can share your holiday stories in my comment section. What were your hits and misses, your bet memories or those times you wish you could forget? Talking with and getting to know my readers is just about my favorite thing about having this blog so keep in touch, thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

春节快乐!
春节快乐!

Don’t forget to check out our amazing giveaway this week here from My Arm Charms. Good luck to everybody!

春节快乐!
春节快乐!
春节快乐!
春节快乐!

Cheers!
Grace

The lunar year of what? Sheep, ram, goat or lamb?

This holiday really has me seeing red!

Back in my home country of China, the New Year celebrations are starting to heat up. If you wanted to include the traditional days of preparation getting ready for the holiday and the holiday itself, you would spend about a month in total. And each day has its own special activity. On one for example, you should clean your house from top to bottom. As I’ve mentioned before, everything has a deeper meaning in China, and this cleaning is no exception. The idea is that you are gathering up and throwing away all the bad luck from the previous year in order to get ready for the next one. As you may know, the Chinese have 12 zodiac signs just as the western horoscope has. But in our culture your sign is determined by the year you are born instead of the month and day. This New Year we will be welcoming the Year of the Sheep. Actually this is an area where the Chinese and English languages don’t communicate very well. In Mandarin, there is a single word that represents all of these types of animals, whether it’s a ram, sheep or goat. All I know for sure is; I love lamb chops!

Chinese Red Qi Pao
Chinese Red Qi Pao

When I first moved to America, I still liked to celebrate the holiday, after all it’s our biggest one of the year! I wanted to make sure all the traditional dishes would be served because I planned to introduce my new family to my culture. There was one small problem though; I didn’t know how to cook! I never thought my mom was the best cook when I was growing up, so when she never got around to teaching me her kitchen skills, I was OK with that. When I moved to Shanghai there were so many convenient and inexpensive food venders and restaurants near my apartment, that it was no problem finding something tasty to eat. Eventually, when I got pretty busy with my webstore I even hired a local woman to come in once a day and tidy up the place and cook lunch. There was always enough left over to carry me to the next day when she would come again. So when I moved to America, the first thing I had to do was find out where I could find the groceries I needed. And the next thing was to figure out how to make it taste how I wanted! I’m happy to say that after a lot of experimentation and a few missteps, I think I got the hang of it. We did find some Asian markets not too far from where we live and I got a couple cookbooks from China before I moved. But mostly I don’t really use the recipes and just sort of make it up as I go.

Chinese Red Qi Pao
Chinese Red Qi Pao

It must have gone pretty well because now my family even makes some of the dishes. My stepdaughter especially loves to cook and bake and has even had some of her coworkers over while she makes traditional steamed dumplings. She loves Chinese New Year so much she’s even taking vacation time from her job to spend the New Year Eve with us. We always have a small feast with 10 or 12 dishes. We have to stay up until midnight for the firecrackers so usually play card games and continue to snack through the evening. It used to be illegal to have firecrackers in Michigan so we would make the drive into nearby Ohio to buy our “supplies”. But now they have opened up the market here too, so it’s a lot easier to make some noise without worry! We always have lots of leftover dumplings from the dinner so every New Year morning I fry some up for breakfast. This is my husband’s favorite breakfast and I have to admit that it’s one of mine too. Another tradition we have to follow is everyone gets a new pair of red socks to wear on New Years Day. Red is our lucky color so the socks make sure you walk into the next year the right way. It’s actually pretty hard to find them sometimes so we usually end up with Valentine’s Day socks covered with tiny hearts. But as long as they’re red they still get the job done.

Chinese Red Qi Pao
Chinese Red Qi Pao

I hope you can share some of your family holiday traditions in my comments page. Is there some special activity, food or clothes that you have to have or the holiday just isn’t right? If you’re looking for a new one you still have a couple days to get your red socks! Happy New Year!

Chinese Red Qi Pao
Chinese Red Qi Pao

Don’t forget to check out our amazing giveaway this week here from My Arm Charms. Good luck to everybody!

Chinese Red Qi Pao
Chinese Red Qi Pao
Chinese Red Qi Pao
Chinese Red Qi Pao

Cheers!
Grace

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Over 40s Petite fashion and life style blogger