Chinese New Year is the most important holiday to the Chinese. It’s a time to spend time with family, and for me, a chance to continue to reflect on the last year, and to think about the new year. There are a ton of traditions, beliefs, and superstitions. My family doesn’t have many Chinese New Year traditions…it’s too hard with work schedules, and living in different cities. (If you want to read about some of the traditions, go online! There are tons of articles, stories and resources, including this interesting one from the BBC.) But what DO we do?
Well, I tend to do the cleaning spree. It’s believed that cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the previous year. And for me, it’s also just another way to start fresh for the new year. And New Year’s Eve is an important day. You’re suppose to have dinner with your family. This meal is as significant as Christmas dinner. This year, as with many years, we did a New Year’s Eve lunch at my aunt’s house. She prepared many of the traditional dishes.
One of the traditional dishes you’re suppose to have is niangao. It’s a New Year Cake that sticky and basically made of sugar, water and glutinous rice flour. I’ve always loved it, and while not necessarily something I crave throughout the year, each year around Chinese New Year, I get excited to eat some niangoa.
The other tradition for us? Coming back together for another meal a few days later. This is to actually celebrate and to wish each other a healthy, happy, and lucky year ahead. There’s always fish, and some other symbolic dishes.
I’m sure there’s suppose to be a specific day when we’re suppose to get back together…but again, we just do it when we can. Yes there’s tradition. But there’s also change. And to me, it’s really all about being together. Not so much about the exact date.
This year, I took home my little piece of niangao from our New Year's Eve lunch and enjoyed it for a few days. But then, I left it out on my counter, and the SF summer sun got to it. I picked it up a few days later to see that it had mold on it! I was so mad!! I wasn't done with my niangoa eating days yet!
So what did I do? I made an attempt at making my own niangoa. How did it turn out? Umm, not quite right. It was the wrong consistency, and it wasn't sweet enough. So now what? I’ve got to figure this out. I’ve got to call my aunt, get some more tips, and do it all over again. Wish me luck!