Chinese New Year

The informant, RD, describes the dishes and gatherinings her family partakes in for Chinese New Year:

RD: “So there was four main dishes that we made every year. The first was dumplings with one single peanut inside. Not every dumpling had a peanut inside so the people who got the peanut dumplings were the lucky ones who were supposed to have a good year. The next dish was a sticky rice with different kinds of fruit which you’d lay out on the new year. Well you made two, so one for you to eat and then one for the gods. It shows that gods that you are giving back and lets you pray for a year of hope and prosperity. And the other two dishes I don’t know how to explain in english (laughs), yeah I have no idea how to explain them. Oh but there was a lot of fish and meat because it was supposed to be, like, extravagant. People would pull out all the stops.

Who would make all the dishes?

RD: When it was at my house my mom and dad would make all the food, but it would switch between households every year. Like some years we’d go to my parents friends house and then other times all their friends would come over.

Was it mainly friends who came?

RD: “Yeah it was my parents friends and then we could invite our friends too. There wasn’t very many family members there because most of my parents relatives were still back in China. There was also a red bag tradition that we did every year where each child child would get a little red bag from there parents with money in it, like 100-500 dollars”

Was the money just a present?

RD: “It was supposed to recognize the child for having a great year, like it showed how proud your family was and how much you accomplished during the year.”

I thought the dishes they made for Chinese New Year were very interesting especially the dumpling with the peanut in it. It seems similar to many other food traditions, like when someone finds the baby figurine in the cake during Mardi Gras. It seems to be a common theme of people being lucky when they find something special in their food. This feeds a lot into the power of superstition on people’s beliefs.

I also thought the red bag was interesting because it signifies the pride of the parents. I though that was a unique way of receiving a gift. Unlike Christmas where you are granted gifts, I thought it was interesting that the children earn the money by being successful and sources of pride for their families.