Gung Hay Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Dragon and the year 4709 on the lunar calendar. My friend texted me this morning to wish me a Happy New Year and asked if I had any dragon-like lunches planned for today.
I’ll the be the first to admit. I am a rare breed these days. I’m 100% Chinese. Yet, I am an abyssmal failure when it comes to passing any bits of culture on to my 50% Chinese children. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but it is what it is. In fact, I have admittedly broken just about every rule in the book…most of these traditions that my parents tried to instill in me surround the idea of securing good luck, good fortune and long health. Breaking these customs reduces my chances of the aforementioned. For instance my mom taught me:
- No bathing…yet I took a shower this morning
- No hair brushing…which sort of had to be done after the shower
- No conducting business…not only did I conduct business (by purchasing some food items), I met with our financial planner this morning!
- Start your day off with something warm and sweet…and I started my day with my standby berry smoothie
- No cutting…which I did several times during the day in order to make meals (which really should have been prepared yesterday)
My house was not clean, my floor not swept. I could probably come up with other wrong-doings, but I don’t want you to give up on me completely 🙂
Tonight my kids will eat their version of a Chinese New Year dinner. I’m not sure how we landed on this dinner as our “traditional” dinner as it is far, far from what I remember as a kid, but it’s what my kids have come to expect.
Fried Rice. We used to do plain white rice, but it turns out my most adventurous eater also doesn’t really like white rice. What kind of Chinese kid is he? So this year, I upgraded and made fried rice. Stepping even farther away from tradition. What can I say?
Jai. Jai is a traditional vegetarian dish (if memory serves me right, one should not eat meat on Chinese New Year, but we break that tradition too). My mom taught me to cheat on this dish – she and I start with canned jai and add in…she does much better than I, I am down to adding just tofu and a soybean based noodle. This was one of my favorite dishes growing up. The long noodles are added to symbolize longevity.
Potstickers. Years ago, I started adding potstickers for my husband. He’s not a huge fan of jai (it is sort of an acquired taste) and I always felt like he’d go hungry, so I made him potstickers. And now I can’t not. Some “traditions” just start like that, don’t you think?
So there you have it, that’s what my kids consider a traditional Chinese New Year Dinner. I don’t mean to knock cultural traditions at all. I could begin to tell you why I suspect I haven’t carried a lot of traditions forward, but none of you are being paid to be my pyschiatrist 🙂 Instead of getting hung up on it, I have chosen to move forward and realize that our dinner is a blending of cultures and a creation of THEIR traditions. Yesterday we “closed” the ending year by having dinner with my parents and brother and my kids know that means they get “da bin lo” which is extremely similar to fondue in broth. We have flank steak, chicken, tofu, prawns, and this year’s additon: calamari. Everyone cooks their own meat, and then there are lots of different Chinese dipping sauces. The meal ends with a bowl of noodles. In a couple of weeks, my mom will host another dinner and cook up a storm. The menu changes from year to year, but it’s always a delicous feast.
The Chinese believe that the Year of the Dragon is always a lucky year – those born in the Year of the Dragon are considered to be the strongest and most revered. Here’s to hoping that this symbolism is true – Gung Hay Fat Choy! May this be an incredible year for you!