This time of year always means one thing to me: Feasting on delicious food with family and friends.
My father grew up in the Chinese neighborhoods of St. Louis, Mo., working in his father’s restaurant. I grew up having Chinese New Year dinner at my uncle’s restaurant, with all of my aunts and uncles and cousins. There were dozens of people, and dozens of platters full of the most wonderful food.
This year, our group will be smaller, just my family and my parents and a friend. We’ve already looked up the recipes that we want to cook, and begun our grocery shopping. On Saturday, we’ll go to some of the Asian grocery stores near us to round out our supplies, and Sunday will be filled with cooking and eating and enjoying each other’s company.
Lunar New Year also means other types of celebrating, of course, with parades and dancing and even beauty pageants. Around the Twin Cities, there will be celebrations for Tet (the Vietnamese New Year) and Lion Dances to celebrate Chinese New Year. One Minneapolis park is even celebrating the year of the Water Dragon with activities along the Mississippi River.
And of course there are large celebrations in Chinatowns around the United States. This year marks the 100th year of Chicago’s Chinatown, where we went to celebrate for several years when I was in middle and high school. It is only the 13th annual parade in New York City, even though that Chinatown has been established since the 1880s. But both of those are young next to the parade in San Francisco that’s been a yearly tradition since the 1860s.
If you had lived in San Francisco in the 1880s, you could have used one of the Chinese-English business directories that Wells Fargo published to find Chong Wong & Co, butcher, on Dupont St., or Quong Eit Loy Groceries on Jackson St. The same directories could have led you to your New Year’s dinner at the restaurants of Can Hong Low on 8th St. in Oakland, or of Hung Fong on Washington St. in Stockton.
I know many people who are eager to start a new year after facing challenges in 2011. Lunar New Year doesn’t include the tradition of making resolutions, but it does include cleaning your house, giving children red envelopes with money for good luck, and making ready to capitalize on what luck the New Year might bring.
2012 is the Year of the Dragon, which is a mystical and lucky sign. It’s also a Water year, which combines with the Dragon’s fire to bring about both uncertainty and opportunity. Some experts are predicting major changes, based on the last Water Dragon year, which was 1952.
This year will definitely bring changes to my family, as we plan on welcoming a new baby in March. It will be interesting to see how our little Water Dragon is different from her big brother, an Earth Ox.
May this New Year bring you and your family health, wealth and happiness. Gung Hay Fat Choy!