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!
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.
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.
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!