Monday, February 3, 2014

Festive Preps, Books and Craft to welcome the the year of Horsay and how "Pantang" are you ?

Chinese New Year, 新 年 (xin nian) which is known as Spring Festival 春节 (chun jie) consists of  a period of celebrations over a period of fifteen days, starting from the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar.

A Legend in ancient China, "Nian" (年) a man-eating predatory beast from the mountains, could infiltrate houses silently. The Chinese were always very scared of this monster and soon they learnt that Nian was sensitive to loud noises and the colour red, and so they scared it away with fireworks and using of the color red on their doors. "Guo Nian" actually means "Passover the Nian". These customs led to the first New Year celebrations. The first week is the most important and most often celebrated with visits to friends and family. This is a time to wish each other a blessed new year.

I bought these two books for Xav to read on the legend of Chinese New Year. << 春节 >> is a story about how the villagers keep "Nian" away using Red Colour and loud noises like fire crackers and lion dance. Do note that there is no Han Yu Pin Yin for the story below, you may want to read through with the kids  together.

ISBN 978-7-80103-929-3

There are other books of the same series for Festivals celebrated by the Chinese. Their ISBN numbers are as follows if you want to search for them online, starting from the left :
ISBN 978-7-80103-932-3
ISBN 978-7-80103-928-6
ISBN 978-7-80103-930-9
ISBN 978-7-80103-931-6

From the left: Duan Wu Jie, Yuan Xiao Jie, Chong Yang Jie, Zhong Qiu Jie

"Come to the party" is a book that consists of the various festivals celebrated by the Chinese. The contents includes festivals like; Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, Hungry Ghost Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival.

ISBN 981-229-417-1

This year I did not really have much time to do any baking nor shop for any CNY decorations. I did not put up Spring Couplets 對 聯 (dui lian) this year but rather together with Xav, we made two Pinkie Pie from #My Little Ponies and sticked them on our door to welcome the year of Horse ! You can get the template from

and made a lantern which I have posted few weeks back on using 60  pieces of 3" squares to do it.

On and off, I have been spring cleaning different parts of the house. One thing to do when you spring clean, it will be good not to have the children around. Otherwise, what you have decided to discard, they will come to you and tell you that they need and would still want to keep them !  The belief of spring cleaning is that it will get rid of bad luck and get ready to receive good fortune.

Personally for my own belief, decluttering of unwanted stuff in the house, will apparently make the flow of the qi in the house smoother and somehow this works on me. I feel less frustrated seeing things all over the house.

Coming to food, there are several foods serve to usher in happiness, wealth and good fortune. My mum always like to cook Braised mushrooms with black moss, pronounced (Fatt Choy) 髮菜 in Cantonese, is also featured in many dishes since its name sounds similar to "prosperity" 發財 ( Fatt Choy) and she never fails to get us the sticky rice cake which is also known as "Nian Gao" - 年糕  and stalk of Leek - 蒜  (suan), meaning calculating  (Mandarin. It symbolizes wealth with never ending of monies to count.

I learnt to make a simple dessert "Red Bean Soup with a twist" using sticky rice cake. So if you decided not to go too much on fried and oily food. Try this.

Another popular dish among the old and young is "Yusheng" 魚 生 (yu sheng), a Chinese-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (most commonly salmon) mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments. "Yusheng" literally means "raw fish", which symbolizes abundance, prosperity and vitality.  Fish 魚 (yu) which is also the pronunciation for "surplus" 餘 (yu). Each of the ingredient in the dish have their own meaning. In Cantonese, they named it "Lo Hei", which means prosperity.

Mandarin Orange 柑 - the name of the fruit is phonetically similar to gold -- jin ju (金橘子) in Mandarin or kam (金) in Cantonese. We will normally give them in a pair to the eldery, coupled with an Ang Pow, blessing them with good health.

Reunion dinner is held on New Year’s Eve when members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration. The New Year's Eve dinner is very elaborate with a traditional menu.
Common dishes such as :

This year, we went for our Reunion lunch with my family at #Grand Park Orchard, Open House Restaurant, located at 270 Orchard Road, Hotline : 66038855

My family

The kids' favourite - Yu Sheng (鱼生)!! LOU AH !!!

Reunion dinner with my in-laws was at Teo Chew Restaurant "Chin Lee Restaurant (深利美食馆)", located at Blk 115 Bedok North Road #01-285 S(460115) Tel : 64495454

It's quite easy to locate as it is just further down the popular Bedok 85 Market. My brother in-law prebooked the table months back ! By the time we reached, the restaurant was fully packed !

The Chuas

I super heart the Teochew Style Yu Sheng. The ingredients are not as fanciful as the ones that are served in our local Tze Char Stalls. Very Simple with just the greens and shredded carrot. The fish slices they used are not salmon but white fish. We added our own sliced abalone.

Teochew Style Yu Sheng

On the eve of Chinese New Year, do you have the practice of giving your children 压岁钱 (ya sui qian) ? My in laws will have such practices for us and the grandchildren.

Vera with her 压岁钱

I read about the most common origin of this tradition "There once was a monster called Sui (祟) which would come on the night of New Year's Eve (Chuxi) and touch the forehead of sleeping children. Once touched, children would loss their intelligence. To avoid this, parents usually stayed up the whole night to watch out for Sui (守祟, or 守岁). One couple decided to keep their son awake by having him play with coins wrapped in red paper. However, both the parents and the boy eventually fell asleep, with the paper-wrapped coins beside the boy's pillow. At night, Sui came in looking for the boy. The parents woke up, but it was too late for them to stop Sui. As Sui got close to the boy, a light flashed from the paper wrapped coins, scaring Sui away.
The next day, the story was spread throughout the village, and people believed that having coins wrapped in red paper would keep Sui away. Therefore it became a tradition to put money by the pillows of children on New Year's Eve and the money is then called Ya Sui Qian 压岁钱 ".

The red envelops, known as 紅 包( Hong Bao ) are usually given to the unmarried and junior members in the family. I will normally prepare on CNY Eve.

Some of the superstitious NOT TO DO during Chinese New Year, if you do follow through. Only the last two points applied to me. Am pretty open to the rest.

1. To buy books is bad luck, because book is a homonym for the word "lose" in Mandarin.
2. To buy a pair of shoes is considered bad luck. The word "shoes" is a homonym for the word "rough" in Cantonese.
3.  To buy a pair of pants is considered bad luck. The word "pants" is a homonym for the word "bitter" in Cantonese. (Although some perceive it to be positive as the word 'pants' in Cantonese could be a homonym for the word "wealth".)
4.  To have a hair-cut is considered bad luck. The word "hair" is a homonym for the word "prosperity". Thus "cutting hair" could be perceived as "cutting your prosperity" in Cantonese.
5.  To sweep the floor is considered bad luck, as it will sweep away the good fortune for the new year.
6. To talk about death is also considered bad luck.

Are you that "Pantang" ? Tell me more if you have more to add on.

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Christy said...

I love hunting down traditional stories and thanks for the library ISBN no. ! Happy new year!

xavvy said...

@ Christy, Gong Xi Fa Cai !! You're most welcome ! Get the books real soon ! If can't you may wish to try Chinatown Library. =)

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