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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chinese New Year

Today is Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog. My father and mother, who are the hardest workers I have ever known, cared not for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or birthdays but we always closed up shop and spent Chinese New Year together as a family. (Officially, there are 15 days of festivities.)

As a child, I've never understood the Chinese calendar but after a bit of searching I found out: “The Chinese calendar has been in continuous use for centuries. This calendar measures intervals of time in seconds, minutes, months, years and centuries, entirely based on the astronomical observations of the movement of the Sun, Moon and stars. It is Year 4703 by the Chinese calendar.”

This holiday is celebrated internationally in Chinatowns all over the U.S. and the world. Anywhere there are Chinese and Chinese influences, there will be celebrations. Many ethnic groups such as the Mongolians, Koreans, the Miao (Chinese Hmong), the Vietnamese (see Tet), Tibetans, the Nepalese and the Bhutanese (see Losar) take part in the festivities and traditions.

More food is consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year. I remember pots and pans filled with dish after dish after dish. My parents used to make a vegetarian dish called 'jai' for our family, what I loved most about 'jai' was the black moss seaweed that looked like a fistful of hair! A good friend of my parents owned a Chinese restaurant we used to frequent once a week and this is where we headed to watch the Lion Dance and see them light firecrackers in the evenings. After my grandma passed away, my mom would go to her grave and light incense. This is also the time to remember our ancestors and their influence on our lives.

The best part of the day is the gathering of family members and gifts of red envelopes in Cantonese: 'lai see', from married couples to unmarried members of the family, usually children. Red envelopes traditionally consisted of amounts, which were considered multiples. Amounts like $2 (two pieces of $1), or $20 were acceptable. The gift was originally a token amount but I often got as much as $20 from my parents and their friends. My mom’s mom usually gave two, $1 dollar bills. After living in Seattle for 13 years without the foundation of our family close to me, (my parents), I can say I am a bit rusty at the traditions of this special holiday but when I think about how I’ve celebrated it before, my memories don’t fail me.

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At 7:15 AM, Blogger Piccola said...

Happy Chinese New Year, may your year be filled with prosperity, good health and peace.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Crystal said...

I'm hoping to hop over to China Town in a few hours for their Lunar New Year parade at 1 o'clock. Great description of what all this Holiday entails, and Happy Year-of-the-Dog!

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

Wishing you and your family a very happy new year Gina!


Does Zavier know it is the year of the dog? Shhhh, don't tell Bak-Gai.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger linda said...

HAppy New Year Gina!
I went grocery shopping yesterday early and the clerk told me I was lucky I got there before 9:30. I guess the New Year crowds are a little crazy (I shop at a huge local supermarket in Chinatown).

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Mona said...

What a great post! Sounds like a very special time for a lot of people. I can't believe it's year 4073!?! Yowsas. Maybe you can help me with something. Swimster and I went out to dinner last night in Chinatown with his roommate (Swimster is Korean/his roommate is Chinese). The food was amazing, there were 10 of us, when the bill came Swimster's roommate paid for the tab, saying it's a tradition the person who invites you to dinner on NY pays for it...is that true???

At 4:15 PM, Blogger american girl in italy said...

Buon Anno Nuovo! *arf*


At 7:39 PM, Anonymous J.Doe said...

Happy Chinese New year.

At 1:18 AM, Blogger Judith in Umbria said...

What I remember from reading a Chinese cookbook, is that Chinese homes are cleaned completely for the new year and that all debts are paid as well. I really like that idea, and although I don't get it to perfection, I am inspired to try.
The Jewish calendar is up to 6000+ if I recall correctly.

At 3:48 AM, Blogger cvraman said...

Happy Chinese New year - I love Torino. The narrow roads and the taxi ride I had there which is unforgettable in my life.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Eulinx said...

Happy New Year!

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous trench said...

Happy Chinese New Year! Im a SNAKE! Hisss......

At 7:43 AM, Blogger L said...

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous rusa said...

hey gina,

i got your e-card. thanks! sun nian fie lok!



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