Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy New Year!

Yesterday was the Lunar New Year's, also known as the Chinese New Year. Although, we are Vietnamese, we do celebrate this holiday. Every year, we watch fireworks and lion dances.The Chinese Lion Dance is performed to chase away bad luck and bring good luck and prosperity. It is performed during the Chinese New Year and for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, parties, parades, for a grand opening of a business, or to welcome special guests. It may also be seen during the Autumn Moon Festival in the fall. To feed the lion money is to bring good luck.
Here is a picture of E feeding the lion some money. It is said that the lion will give you back ten times the luck. This picture is a few years old. E was only 3 years old at the time, but he certainly had no fear going up to the lion. I don't have any pictures of our trip yesterday as my camera lens broke over the weekend!

When giving money, it is customary to place money into red paper envelopes. Here are some of the many varieties of money bags. Banks around here usually hand them out upon request.
Traditionally, red envelopes of money, what we call as lì xì (lee see), are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebration, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Children would wish elders prosperity, health, and luck, in return.

In addition to red envelopes, which are usually given from elder to younger, small gifts (usually of food or sweets) are also exchanged between friends or relatives (of different households) during Chinese New Year. Gifts are usually brought when visiting friends or relatives at their homes. Common gifts include fruits typically oranges, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or some other small gift.

Some of the foods we munched on as we watched the lion dance were bánh tieu and bánh cam.
Bánh tieu is a Vietnamese Doughnut. It is hollow inside and commonly eaten with ice cream. The temperatures were in the low 30's yesterday with some wind so ice cream was out of the question.
Bánh cam or also known as bánh rán is a deep fried glutinous rice ball. Its outer shell is made from glutinous rice flour, and covered all over with white sesame seeds. Its feilling is made from sweetened mung bean paste. Traditionally, the filling should be separated from the shell so that if one shakes the bánh cam, one can feel the filling rattle against the inside of the shell. On a cold winter day, it was nice to have these warm, just made pastries to munch on.

Before the lion dance even proceeds, there are usually firecrackers lit.
Bamboo stems filled with gunpowder that were burnt to create small explosions were once used in ancient China to drive away evil spirits. Today, this method has eventually evolved into the use of firecrackers during the festive season. Firecrackers are usually strung on a long fused string so it can be hung down. Each firecracker is rolled up in red papers, as red is auspicious, with gunpowder in its core. Once ignited, the firecracker lets out a loud popping noise and, as they are usually strung together by the hundreds, the firecrackers are known for their deafening explosions that are thought to scare away evil spirits. The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations.

Growing up, I am so grateful that my parents always celebrated these traditions. I have many fond memories of celebrating the new year that I hope to create more memories with my children. We plan on attending our first ever glow in the dark lion dance this weekend.
The picture of the dragon at night looks phenomenal and I think my kids will have a blast. I am excited. I just hope the temperatures are a little warmer. Hopefully, I will have a new camera lens so that I can capture this experience.

It is the year of the Tiger and I want to wish everyone a wonderful, prosperous, and very lucky New Year!

Thanks to wikipedia for all their information they provided.

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