Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Whenever my husband commented about having born on Christmas Day and that he should get two presents, I would respond by asking that I should also get extra present for celebration of the Lunar New Year. I was born on December 12th in the Lunar calendar, yet when I was only two months old, I was considered two years old as everyone grows one year older at the start of the new year. Talk about being mature before my age!

One of the customs observed by traditional Chinese is serving a whole fish at dinner, head, tail and even the eyes! When one side of the fish is done, the entire fish must be turned over in one motion. Breaking the fish would be considered bad luck (similar to a boat being capsided). The pronunciation of the word Fish sounds the same as Surpluses. I thought the above photo showing the golden fish would be appropriate for this entry about the Chinese New Year.

The embroidery was a gift from my mother and it was a special order from Vietnam. My husband purchased the frame at an estate sale for about $40. My Mom told me it cost her about $175 to get a smaller framing done in New York. In a perfect world, St. Louis would be an hour drive from NYC. Each weekend I would come over to spend time with my nephew while my husband would help my brother with minor repairs. Or my mother would visit us and cook delicious food with plenty of left over for lunch the following week. We would go to estate sale or garage sale so my mother could comment about how people were foolish to spend money on knick-knack instead of saving for rainy days.

My brother wrote that he loved the fruit garden when he visited Che Pho (material grandmother) during a few summers before we left Vietnam. I too remembered fondly how much I looked forward to visiting Cai Tau Ha during the summer and also at the new year. The week before Tet, the helpers would be busy giving the house a thorough cleaning, Che Pho would be busy with food shopping, merchant dropping off fresh meat, and all major cooking would be done before the new year arrived.

I remembered the red laterns lighted, displayed at the front door of Che Cung (maternal grandfather) drug store. Each child received new clothings. Che Pho owned a fabric shop and she would tell me to pick out an extra set of clothing. She told me not to tell other cousins as they might be envious. Of course, we all looked forward to receiving the red packets (lai shi or hung bao) which contained money given to the children by the adults and elders. Because Che Cung was a prominent businessman, we had a lot of visitors paying respect during the new year, so in addition to lai shi from my parents and relatives, I made sure I was nearby to receive lai shi from the visitors as well.
There were lion or dragon dance performed around the village, in front of businesses as a symbolic ritual to chase away bad spirits and welcoming in good luck. Most of the children from my second uncle would have deck of cards in their shirt pocket, trying to get others to gamble. I usually play a game or two of rolling the dices. Most of the time I was busy eating the sweet snacks, watermelon seeds that had been dyed in red and trying to keep my clothes from getting wrinkles.
This is the start of the Year of the Rat (4705 in the traditional Chinese calendar) but I thought a photo of Mickey and Minnie Mouse would look nicer than a rat. The Chinese character below means happiness. Here are my wishes to all my adoring fans and anyone who reads my blog - May you enjoy many years of happiness, filled with love, good health and prosperity.

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