Happy Chinese New Year

As an American woman, Happy New Year brings up various memories. Some good and some terrible. I remember when I was 23 years old and was peer-pressured into drinking too much. At the time, I didn’t know you could go blind from alcohol. I had just gotten off my shift as a waitress at Romano’s Macaroni Grill on New Year’s Eve and all of the waitstaff was going to a party. I hadn’t eaten all day, so I stopped to grab some Sun chips at a convenience store on the way. Now when I say too much it was probably two drinks on an empty stomach but I remember being in a ditch on the side of the road. I also remember waking up with the worst New Year’s Day hangover throwing up Sun chips followed by dry heaving the lining of my stomach. That was over 20 years ago and now you know why I don’t drink very much or eat Sun Chips.

When I got married to my first husband we eloped on New Year’s Eve. The next day we showed up at his family’s house and joined into the New Year’s festivities. The drama that ensued that day is another story but certainly attached to my NYE experience. OMG I could write a book about that but anyway, I had no idea that the Japanese American New Years thing was such a real thing. Japanese Americans celebrate on January 1st with all the traditional Japanese cuisine that they normally do not eat throughout the year. They come in an assortment of colorful dishes packed together in special boxes called jubako, which resemble bento boxes. Every dish of these traditional foods have a special meaning in welcoming the New Year. Most things I had never seen or heard of before but for ten years, that annual celebration became one of my favorite and opened my eyes to the new meaning of New Year, New beginnings and well wishes.

Now I get to learn something new. My new wonderful husband is Chinese American. If you hadn’t noticed I like Asia. Anyway, Happy New Year to me and all the Chinese people that celebrate the Spring Festival at the end of January or beginning of February. My first Chinese New Year was spent in Hong Kong for our honeymoon. How appropriate for us to start our life in our favorite city on New Year’s Eve. China has long standing traditions and festivals and I was excited to experience the fun. The Spring Festival in China, is China’s most important traditional festival. It is also the most important celebration for families, and a week of official public holiday. Like many cultures, Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year. This is not a time for work or worry. All is happy and spent together with family. My husband was raised in Ohio with few other Asian families around him. So he did not experience Chinese New Year like a Chinese Americans did in California. I asked him what should we do? I was so excited to celebrate, learn and expose my son to new things. Simply put…He don’t know. So I decided to reach out to the World Wide Web.

Apparently there is a lot to know and as you would expect there are a lot of traditions in food. Although I got a lot of suggestions, I decided to make it simple and concentrate on the meaning behind celebrating with family and not get all stressed out.  Here are a few things we did on my first Chinese New Year Celebration with my family Happy Year of the Rooster.

I made Chicken WINGS!!!  Okay, I know. But hey, Its close to both duck and rooster so I felt like I was in there. We had Appetizers, a fruit tray, Chinese tea eggs, Char Sui, Brussel sprouts, mochi ice cream and Bungeoppang (Fish Bread) Ice cream. Everyone including the kids wore red and we spent time talking and enjoying each other. In all, I was happy to have another reason to relax with family and friends until the next opportunity.

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