Gong Xi Gong Xi

We're a day away from the Year of the Rabbit. It's Chinese New Year's Eve here in America but the lunar cycle has started on its new year in Asia so GONG XI FA CAI TO ALL in that hemisphere!

In preparation for the new year, The Husband and I have been on this frantic, albeit disorganized, cleaning kick. Out with the old. Also, superstition states that no cleaning/sweeping is to be done during the festive season. Don't clean for 15 days? Twist my arm. But I also don't want to be living in filth for that long so... now or never.

Traditionally, families have their reunion dinners on the eve where everyone comes over for some yu sheng (fish salad) or, in Cantonese, lo hei which translates as "toss fish" - this is where you grab a pair of chopsticks and literally start tossing this mix of shredded, colorful veggies and raw fish with this sweet sauce. The more you toss, the messier it gets and the more air you get with your toss, the more luck you'll have.

Peanuts, sugar, sweet sauce, veggies, fish - so you get color, texture, flavor, nourishment, everything that's an enhancement to life is tossed together and consumed.  Us Chinese, we're all about the symbolism.

FYI - I'm probably bastardizing the information here, because it's all off the top of my head from what I've been taught since I was little. I'll have a link at the end of the post for Wikipedia's take on the CNY.

My family usually has a steamboat dinner after where we all sit around and stuff our faces for as long as we want it to last, then we gather and chat.  All the lights in the house are turned on to ward off bad spirits, all the windows are open to invite in fresh air, and the night is just one of many gatherings that will take place over the course of 15 days.

One the first day, we wake up and older, married couples will present the younger, single relatives and friends with an ang pow (red packet) of money to help them start off the new year right.  My grandma makes a sweet soup of dates, ginko nuts and dried logans which we have to consume - something sweet so we stay sweet all year. The relatives start coming in to visit, and everything revolves around food and snacks and paying respects. My favorite snacks? Homemade pineapple tarts, these peanut cookies that taste like butter, and kueh lapis or thousand layer cake. This is THE layered cake to put all other layered cakes to shame, they're delicious and so damn hard to make but it's on my bucket list. I just need to find the time.

Lots of homes hire Lion Dance troupes to come in - the noise and the lion are to, again, ward off evil spirits. Plus it's REALLY fun for kids to watch. When you visit people over the new year, it's customary to bring two Mandarin oranges as a gift and sometimes even some nian gao which is a sticky, glutinous sweet cake.

Red and gold are the colors of choice, again for good luck not so much fashion. No black, no dark colors, just festive, bright colors. It's all about good fortune, it's whatever is most auspicious and brings prosperity.

This year, The Husband and I will be celebrating at Suzy Wong's House of Yum.  Chef Arnold Myint is having an intimate dinner party limited to 20 reservations for a family style Chinese New Year dinner to ring in the year of the Rabbit.  We're really excited, especially since we won't have to clean up after ourselves and I already know the food's going to be great!

Happy new year to all!! Xin Nian Kuai Le! May the year of the rabbit treat you all well!

Click here for more interesting information on the Chinese New Year