15 days of Chinese New Year

OriginsTraditionsFoodDecoration15+ Days

Eve | First Day | Second Day | Third Day | Fourth Day | Fifth Day | Sixth Day | Seventh Day | Eight Day | Ninth Day | Tenth Day | Eleventh Day | Twelfth Day | Thirteenth Day | Fourteenth Day | Fifteenth Day

Origins of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year (CNY) or Spring Festival, 春節 chun jie, is a huge celebration, and one that is the most important of Chinese holidays, for more than a billion Chinese people around the world. The origin of this celebration is by itself centuries old and has gained significance through myths, superstitions and traditions.

My father once told us that CNY began with the fight of men against a beast. Every year, on the first day of New Year, a mythical beast called Nian 年 would attack livestock, crops, villagers and even children. To protect themselves, the villagers would offer food to placate the beast. After much trial and errors, it seemed that Nian was also afraid of the color red and loud, explosive noise from firecrackers. So from then on, overcoming Nian became 過年 Guo Nian and the tradition of preparing food, wearing red and playing with firecrackers carried on.

This festival, more than any other celebrated holidays of the Chinese, stresses the importance of family ties. The Chinese New Year’s eve dinner gathering is among the most important family occasions in the year. The eve and New Year’s Day are typically days of reunion and thanksgiving for families. It is traditionally a celebration in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of household and family ancestors.

During the eve of New Years (when my sisters and I were still home), our family of five would travel to Klang for a family reunion dinner with my Phoa relatives. There, my two uncles with their family from Klang, uncle and family from Johor, uncle and family from Singapore, and on some years, both or one aunt(s) from Canada will gather in this house for a family reunion dinner. After dinner, and cleaning up before 12, the younger members of the family will wish their elders and parents a Happy New Year, and in return get angpows/red packets/利事 lai si or 红包 hong bao filled with money. The traditional red packets contain anywhere from a couple of dollars to a few hundred dollars, but it has to be of even numbers as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals. Of course, when visiting friends or relatives, lai si/red packets must be prepared ahead of time. Our one night before CNY of angpows cover our “spending money” for the entire year, although we always end up putting it into the bank.

This year, CNY falls on Feb. 14 and it is the year of the Tiger in the year 4707, according to the Chinese Calendar. The New Year celebration begins with a New Moon and ends 15 days later on a full moon. Even though the New Year is 15 days long, preparation for the celebration begins well in advance.

The Chinese calendar is a combination of lunar and solar movements, whereby the lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. It catches up to the solar calendar by adding an extra month every few years (seven years out of a 19-year cycle), much like adding an extra day on a leap year.

Following 12 years of Chinese New Year beginning with the Year of the Rat in 2008.

Feb. 7, 2008 Year of the Rat (鼠) 子
Feb. 3, 2009 Year of the Ox (牛) 丑
Feb. 14, 2010 Year of the Tiger (虎) 寅
Feb. 3, 2011 Year of the Rabbit (兔)卯
Jan. 23, 2012 Year of the Dragon (龍) 辰
Feb. 10, 2013 Year of the Snake (蛇) 巳
Jan. 31, 2014 Year of the Horse (馬) 午
Feb. 19, 2015 Year of the Ram (羊) 未
Feb. 8, 2016 Year of the Monkey (猴) 酉
Jan. 28, 2017 Year of the Rooster (雞) 酉
Feb. 16, 2018 Year of the Dog (狗) 戌
Feb. 5, 2019 Year of the Pig (豬) 亥

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Traditions

When we were younger, my mother would set aside time for the family’s annual spring cleaning of the house. Everything was done months ahead, where mosquito nettings were washed, peep holes were dusted and cleaned with our tiny hands, ventilation ducts on the speakers were meticulously dusted, storeroom resorted and relined, and unwanted things thrown away (but in our case, nothing was unwanted or rarely was it thrown away). Days leading to the celebration, the bed linens were washed and changed anew, floors were swept and mopped, glasses polished, windows wiped down, bathrooms scoured, and most importantly, the food was prepared well in advanced and the decorations were up. We had Chinese New Year carpet, CNY flowers, CNY bed sheets, CNY PJs, CNY dinnerware – all used once a year. Apart from that, we always had two brand new sets of CNY clothes and shoes every year; one for the first day of CNY and the other for the second day.

There are 15 days of celebration, eating, visiting and for those unmarried people, a time of amassing wealth. Whatever happens on the first few days, signifies the rest of the year, which is why everything is pristine, loud, festive, and of abundance. The house has to be spic and span before the New Year’s. On the eve, all brooms, brushes and cleaning equipment are stowed away to prevent good fortune/luck from being swept away. The house is then not swept/cleaned until the fifth day (my mom bends this rule after the third day). Of course, there is the practice of ushering in the New Year with a loud bang. The more attention you call upon yourself, the better. Every year (until the ban of firecrackers in Malaysia) on the eve of New Years, my father would tie together an approximate 8-feet in height worth of firecrackers to release at the stroke of midnight. That was the highlight of our night after dinner at my uncle’s and upon returning home. Then we would roll around the ultra plush carpet while watching the CNY movie broadcasted on TV.

All debt had to be paid off and there was no muttering of foul language, bad or otherwise unlucky words during this period of celebration (almost like lent – giving up on something, but this is voluntary or else you curse your own year ahead). Of course, anything to help the cause is welcome and that includes being clean, and wearing red – the color of happiness and life.

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The Importance of Food

Food, more than anything else, is consumed a lot during this celebration. Traditional CNY food are prepared, as well as vegetarian dishes for the first day of the New Year. A lot of the ingredients used, or dishes created have to do with the superstitions surrounding it. A traditional vegetarian dish, 罗汉斋 luo han zhai, or Buddha’s delight has an ingredient called “fatt choy.” This black moss seaweed (fatt choy) is a homonym for prosperity, while dried bean curd is a homonym for wealth and happiness. Fish is eaten whole, 魚 yu,  another homonym for abundance and extras “年年有余.” Yu sheng 魚生, a salad of raw fish and shredded crunchy vegetables (such as carrots, jicama, pickled ginger and pomelo) in a plum sauce dressing, is often served especially for South East Asian Chinese families. Dumplings, 饺子 jiao zi, are made and then eaten because they are shaped like the old Chinese tael.  There is the traditional Nian Gao 年糕, which literally means an increased prosperity in the present and future years ahead. This CNY pudding is made of glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, salt, water and sugar. This hardened form is usually then sliced thinly and coated with batter to be fried. Mandarin oranges, 柑 kam, are brought during visits symbolizing gold. Lychee symbolize strong family relationships, coconut for union, peanuts for longevity, longan for offsprings and melon seeds for happiness.

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Decoration

Most Chinese household are decorated with blooming plants and flowers to symbolize birth and growth. Plum blossoms, 梅花 mei hua, of which we are named after, and pussy willows are also arranged with bamboos for courage, hope and perseverance.

A house plant that blooms during the New Years is supposed to bring good luck to the family.

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15+ Days of Celebration


EVE
Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010

The day is spent doing last-minute clean-ups, touch ups and decoration. It is also a day busy with food preparation for the evening’s celebration. My carpet will be rolled out, the CNY dinnerware will be used, CNY cds pulled out from the abyss, my linens changed, floors swept and mopped, kitchen wiped down and bathroom scoured. I’m going to need a holiday after this holiday.

Seafood Noodles, Pot Stickers, Baked Chicken w/ Almonds, Baked Pork w/ Sesame Seeds, Yu Shang & Buddha's Delight

On this night, miles away from home, we planned a big feast for friends who have become family. I made a vegetable soup boiled for 9 hours with an assortment of Chinese herbs, pork bones, shiitake mushrooms and bok choy, Buddha’s delight (with peas, shiitake mushrooms, lily buds, gingko nuts, fatt choy, bean curd sticks and water chestnut), dumplings, baked pork tenderloin with sesame seeds, baked chicken with almonds and scallions, seafood fried noodles and store-bought Yu Shang, raw fish salad. For dessert, we had longan, lychee, palm coconut, peaches and mandarin oranges fruit compote, together with a specialty raisin bread with yogurt.

This I did by myself since Cheh was “working” on her mobile Olympics site that crashed the day before (FYI: she’s been working for 2 weeks straight after).


FIRST DAY – 初一
Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010

The First day of CNY is a day of welcoming the deities of heavens and earth into one’s life. Many abstain from meat on this day to ensure a long and happy year ahead. Since the lighting of fire and using of sharp objects is considered bad luck on the First day, all food to be consumed are cooked the day before. For many Buddhists, this is also the birthday of Bodhisattva (Budai Louhan).

Back when we were home, my family traveled down to Malacca on the first day to visit the Chongs, my father’s brother and sisters. It is usually a day filled with tremendous amounts of eating and collecting of angpows 利事 or 红包. Decked in our new clothes, and new shoes, we usually take a family picture together before making the 2-hour journey down south. The practice of visiting friends and family is called “new year visits” or 拜年 pai nian. Whenever we go visiting, we always bring gifts to the family that we are visiting, ie. oranges, pears or grapes, and sometimes even wine and chocolates.

The usual greeting upon meeting each other is, ” 新年快樂” xīn nián kuài lè or the infamous “恭喜发财” gōng xǐ fā cái wish of prosperity. Then there is the wish for everlasting peace and protection, “歲歲平安” suì suì píng ān or the other for bountiful harvest, “年年有餘” nián nián yǒu yú.

First day of 2010 Chinese New Year lands on Valentine’s Day. Double the celebration, double the joy. Since it’s a Sunday and the next day is a public holiday, we visited a family friend and dined out in Chinatown, Flushing.

I woke up bright and early this morning, thanks to my beloved four-legged friend. I went downstairs and lo and behold, my plant, which has never sprouted a single flower, suddenly has flowers blossoming. It sure helps that it is so fragrant too. This is a good start to the New Year.

Then after, walking, feeding and cleaning Jessie, and clearing out the dishes from the dish washes, my parents called!! (We already spoke to them yesterday, wishing them a Happy New Year, so it was a delightful surprise that they called!) My mom was in a jolly mood, regaling me with my father’s actions from the day. She remarked that as my dad grows older, he grows vainer by the second. As they were leaving to 拜年 pai nian with my maternal grandfather, my father had to rush back into the house for a change of shoes. It seems his blue suede Puma shoes bought from the US “didn’t match his outfit.” So, my mother patiently waited (since it is Chinese New Year, otherwise she would have given him a piece of her mind) while my father changed to his Bally’s shoes. They can be cute.

Then she recounted that, she thinks my father has “early Alzheimer’s” only because he seems to have lost his mind when speaking to my cousin. My fourth uncle from Johor, Kuleh Ti, and his family were due up to KL on the evening of Feb. 12. However, due to his son’s work, their journey was pushed back another few more hours, thus making their arrival time later than expected, and later than what my mom is used to being awake. So, she instructed my father to call her second brother, Kuleh Jee, around 10 / 11 pm to ensure the safe arrival of Kuleh Ti. My father finally made the call close to midnight, and my cousin sister picked up the phone. I guess it must have been late, because my father didn’t know for the longest time who he was calling for, what my cousin addresses him and my mom (Bo-leh, husband to an older aunt, and Ah Boh, older aunt). After fumbling through the entire conversation, he finally got the message that Kuleh Ti arrived safely with his family.  My mother was cackling the entire conversation.

After we hung up the phone, I turned on the TV hoping to catch some CNY Galas of sorts on the Chinese channels. I settled on one, and lucky for me, after about 45 minutes of jibber-jabber, Wang Lee Hom (WLH) showed up.  That made my day!

Cheh and I

After wasting my entire morning trying to catch another glimpse of WLH, we finally had to prep to go into the city. All dressed up, we decided to take our traditional family picture before leaving the house on the first day of New Year. My younger sister and parents are missing from the picture. 😦 Hubs was not particularly happy that we were cam whoring. Cheh was dressed in pink (like she was 2) and I were in an assortment of red and orange hues (a little ah neh but what the hey! It’s CNY!!).

Malaysian Food

Hainanese Chicken, Seafood Noodles w/ Egg Sauce, Fried Kuey Teow, Satay

Then we had our lunch date with a family friend for CNY. We went to a Malaysian Restaurant to have Yu Shang 魚生. Aside from that, we also ordered chicken and beef satay, half a Hainanese chicken, curry Yong Tau Fu (vegetable stuffed with fish paste), fried kuey teow and seafood noodles in egg sauce. As the dishes rolled in, suddenly, a lion dance troupe came into the restaurant and stood next to us as we ate and gave their blessings!!!  Now this is what I call lucky!!

Lion Dance

Lion Dance


SECOND DAY – 初二
Monday, Feb. 15, 2010

This is a day of paying respects to one’s ancestors, visiting graves, as well as praying to all deities. It is also believed to be the birthday of all dogs. Married daughters use this day to visit their parents. Finally, Cantonese business people will hold a prayer ritual on this day for their business to prosper throughout the year.

Back home in Malaysia, on the second day, we would usually visit a close family friend, also my martial arts sifu. There, we would spend the entire day, into the wee hours of the morning, playing gin rummy and ordering food from hawker stalls.

Jessie

The calm before the storm

Lucky for us, this year, the second day also lands on Presidents’ Day. We have the day off and I guess we are heading to the mall, or better yet, coach potato-ing and eating leftovers. We opted for the second choice. We had leftovers for lunch and watched cartoons the entire day. What a lazy day!

At night, after putting the last dishes away downstairs (on the first floor), I heard the toilet gurgling. So I decided to check it out. After shutting off the water valve, I realized that water was seeping out from somewhere. When hubs came back from dropping off Cheh at the bus stop to catch her concert at Carnegie Hall, I asked him to check it out. While he was looking at it, I took my shower. Within seconds, he came bounding up the stairs and banged on the door shouting for me to take a quick shower instead.  How does one take a quick shower while washing one’s hair?!

After that, I frantically called around for plumbers, not knowing how serious the problem was. We have used Roto-Rooter before, so I called them up, and a technician was quickly dispatched to us within 30 minutes. Since Cheh’s things are in the room, we cleared everything out, and lined the carpets with plastics before the plumber could do anything. When he finally came in with his 350 lbs machine, he told us that he was going to snake that thing through the sewage pipes and break down whatever was blocking the pipes. After about 30 minutes of “breaking down” he came up to let us know that it actually was the city’s system that was blocked on my side. The city finally came around 11 pm. The dude checked the “up and down stream” and declared that the city sewage pipes were ok. He told us to call the plumber again. I did. They said that it was the city’s problem. I called the city again. They said that they were definitely clear. Now, tired, frustrated and dealing with a sewage problem, I called Roto-Rooter back irritated and angry. They said that the earliest they can come out is first thing tomorrow morning. This time, they are sending out their “senior” plumbing technician. Great! Until then, the water can’t be run, and the toilets can’t be used.

Cheh will have to be upstairs with us tonight.

The weather service is predicting another snow front moving in tonight into late tomorrow (How bad? We’ll have to wait and see. It’s already starting to snow now).  Maybe it’s another day at home tomorrow…oh wait, I already have the day off tomorrow! Oh joy! Can’t wait for tomorrow.


THIRD DAY – 赤口日
Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010

The 3rd and the 4th day are generally considered inauspicious days for visiting friends or relatives. In as such, families then allocate these days to visiting grave sites of ancestors instead.

The day began bright and early for me. Jess woke me up. Then I remembered I couldn’t use the bathroom, brush my teeth or wash my hands. Great. No drinking water for me today.

Roto-Rooter was supposed to send their technician out by 8 am. The plumber didn’t show up until close to ten. By then I really needed to use the bathroom.

He went straight to work, and told me he would try to unclog the line. He gave it a try… twice. The news wasn’t good. He insisted that it was the city. He called the city, and promised to be around when they came so that he can speak to them directly instead of leaving me to fend for myself. The DPW (Department of Public Works) came quickly this time. The two guys that came out to speak to my plumber didn’t look like they were budging from their stance that the city was running fine. Dejected, he came back and told me he would try another few more rounds before giving up. He pushed deeper this time around, using a different circular blade for his snake through the pipes. The stench wafted upstairs, as I sat by the stairs hoping and praying for good news. He finally appeared through the 1st floor stairs and said, “I think I got it. I pulled up baby wipes and a tampon.”

In our defense, we don’t use baby wipes, and all feminine products are wrapped up and tossed in the garbage, not into the toilet.

He went at it one more time to make sure that everything was cleared, and then he told me to run the water in the kitchen and the bathroom upstairs, while he turned on the shower downstairs. After about 15 minutes, he declared that we were up and running!  That was the best news I have heard the entire day. As he cleaned up for me, he apologized for the mess on the carpet even after I had carefully lined the floors with newspapers and plastics. He finally left, and knowing I had a shower to turn to later, I scrubbed the floors and carpet with gusto. As I scoured and sanitized, I felt all the raw sewage and dirt crawl up to me away from the floors. After I thoroughly cleaned the place, Cheh yelled to me that the plumber’s supervisor was coming with his camera for a follow-up which was included in the service. This follow-up was only supposed to happen a few days later, but since he was in the area, he decided to stop by.

I cringed, as I relined the spotless floors and carpet with newspapers upon newspapers again. The supervisor cheerily greeted me, and went straight to work. After about 35 feet into the sewage line, I began to see water. I saw a little frown on his face. “This doesn’t look good,” he said worriedly.

Pushing it another 5 more feet, the camera sunk straight into water and not dry land. It seems that, the plumber told him that even though he cleared the clog, towards about 40 feet out, he felt the cables weren’t going in as smoothly as it should but didn’t know what it was. Getting his recorder and gear in line, he told Cheh to flush the toilet upstairs as he and I watched through the camera, the movements of the water. The water flowed through, but this time, the water started backing up at 30 feet. The supervisor pulled the entire camera out, and started the entire process all over again to see what was wrong. This time, he pushed the cable pass the 40 feet mark and came upon a lip in the pipe. “Oh!”

I didn’t like that “OH!” at all.

“It looks like there maybe a disjoint.”

I looked at him quizzically, not understanding what he just said, and even more frightened at the implications. He then explained to me, that over time, the ground above could sink and the impact of that can cause the sewage line running from a house out to the main city line to collapse and “disjoint” from the other. Unlucky for me, the disconnect was just right at the end of my property, which means it is my responsibility to pay for the fix. This was really what I wanted to hear. Not.

Left with no choice, I had to fix the problem. After going through all the paper work with the supervisor and deciding that work will be done the following day I finally got to relax a little. The middle of the road will be dug up, the pipes changed and reconnected to the city line again, and finally the road will be closed up and repaved before we reach home. That leaves hubs with one arm and one leg after payment. Oh, and we STILL cannot run any water in the house tonight.

I wearily went back downstairs again, and recleaned the carpet and floors again. Now we had to figure out where we were going to shower.  Friend’s or aunt’s? In the end, we ended up at Holiday Inn, 3 minutes from our house. You never realize how much running water, a shower and lavatory mean to you until they are all taken away from you. Snuggled up in the hotel room’s bed, after a shower feels like heaven!

Now, let’s hope tomorrow is a better day.


FOURTH DAY – 赤口日
Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010

It is back to the daily grind, and no, it’s not 9-5.  Times have changed.

The demolition crew showed up just before we left for work. The head construction dude actually asked me where to dig.  I panicked a little, but was sure that he would get the location right after speaking to the supervisor.

blind leading the blind

Figuring out where to dig

Hubs then asked him, “How big will the hole be?”

“Oh, not that big,” was the reply, “Only about 3 by 8.”

By who’s standards is that NOT big? I pictured a ditch, they drew a ravine.

I got to work and the supervisor from yesterday called me up a little after 10 am. It seems that a jet truck would have to be called in because goo aka grease from eons ago is oozing out of the pipes. Before they put in the new pipes, they were wondering if I wanted to let the grease build up (and possibly cause more problems in the future) or blast the thing out with jet stream water. I choose option 2. Of course option 2 didn’t come cheap either.

We finally came home. The hole is patched, as evident from the newly laid asphalt. Hubs also just finished washing all the dishes that piled up from days before. And I’m testing out the bathroom system. Cross your fingers that it was money well-spent.

It’s bad enough that we cleaned the house on the second day of CNY. To actually do construction work during the New Year inside and outside the house, this is even worse.  I can’t imagine if my plant at home didn’t sprout some flowers and that we didn’t meet the lion dance up close and personal what else could have happened to us?! FYI – Cheh has been working since Friday until today non-stop (with about 3-5 hours of sleep each day) as her mobile sites for NBC’s Vancouver Olympics kept crashing for no reason. The dust finally settled for all of us today.

As of 10:30 pm tonight, things are ok.  The supervisor will hopefully come around this weekend with his camera again to ensure that everything is A-OK!


FIFTH DAY – 初五 / 破五
Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010

Po Wu 破五 is also known as the birthday of the God of Wealth 財神 Cai Shen. Cai Shen began as a folklore, but deified by local followers, and later venerated by Taoism and Buddhism as a god.

Taiwan and mainland businesses traditionally reopen on this day, accompanied by firecrackers to draw in Guan Yu 關羽, the Chinese God of War.

There is no visiting of friends and families on this day as it will bring bad luck to both parties. Where do you think I can go to amass some wealth on this day, considering the size of the hole in the pocket? 出那而接财神呢?

the dig

The dig & patch

It’s finally a day of normalcy, until the end of the day at work, and I sliced open my finger with an x-acto blade.  Now my index finger is nicely mummified.


SIXTH DAY – 初六
Friday, Feb. 19, 2010

The visiting of friends and family continue, as the children amass wealth, the parents are emptying their pockets.

People also visit the temples to pray for fortune and good luck, anything to make the year go in their favor. (I want something, anything to go in my favor…!!)

It’s been a tiring and draining three-day work week. Friday couldn’t have come sooner. We took it easy, and had McDonalds 2/$3 Fish burger. Unfortunately, hubs dropped the fries on the way in. Bummer!


SEVENTH DAY – 初七
Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010

Farmers display their harvest during this day, and celebrate it by making a drink from seven types of vegetables.

This day is also known as everybody’s birthday – 人日 or as my father likes to call it 人人生日. Noodles are eaten for longevity, while raw fish salad, like Yu Shang, is consumed for success.

I will go ahead and treat myself to a cake and the longest noodles ever! …or so I thought.

The supervisor from Roto-Rooter was supposed to come by 11 am. He didn’t show. Instead, he will probably be here Monday or Tuesday evening. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

We went for dim sum lunch at China Chef, but it was so unsatisfying. There were practically no one in the restaurant in Secaucus, but none of the staff seem to want to serve us food. Fine with us. We just ordered a plate of fried noodles. That didn’t turn out the way we wanted. What a disappointment! 😦 Since we were around the area, we decided to see if there were open houses. We went to three. Two peaked our interest, but we quickly scratched the first one off the list. But Cheh will be back again tomorrow to see the one bedroom in the opposite court. Will see what happens.

We were going to order-in for dinner, but ended up at a Korean Restaurant in Fairview. It was super busy as the Koreans were celebrating New Year too! They had a special New Year menu, but unfortunately for us, we couldn’t read Korean, and the staff didn’t speak English. It was chicken and duck talk. So we just ordered the norm; seafood pancake, spicy seafood soon-dobu (tofu with seafood in a spicy soup), octopus rice in clay and grilled beef brisket. Had a stomach ache soon after, from eating too much and from the ultra spicy food. Lucky for us, the plumbing system at home works.


EIGHT DAY – 初八
Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010

For the Hokkien/Fujian people, this is another day for a reunion dinner and at midnight, they pray to the Emperor of Heaven/Jade Emperor 玉皇 with offerings of sugar canes, incense and food. The Jade Emperor has come to the Fujian people’s aid during times of peril. To that, this day is a day of remembrance and gratitude.

The eight day is also a good/lucky day for the Chinese people, as they believe the number eight, patt, sounds like fatt 幅.

Off to see a potential home today and Cheh’s 1 bedroom condo in Secaucus. No more repairs for me for a while.  This is all I can handle.


NINTH DAY – 初九
Monday, Feb. 22, 2010

It is a day of offerings to the Jade Emperor 玉皇大帝, as it is the Jade Emperor’s birthday.

It is said that the Jade Emperor was originally a crown prince. He devoted his childhood helping the poor, the suffering, the ostracized, the hungry and the disabled. He is also known to have vanquished evil. He later had a daughter, who became the infamous heroine in the star-crossed love story of the Cowherd, Niulang 牛郎, (aka Altair) and the Weaver Girl, Zhinü 织女 (aka the star Vega).

The Cowherd, Niulang, stumbled upon seven sisters bathing by a lake, and stole the clothes of the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhinü. Having stolen her magical clothes that enable her return to heaven, Zhinü was forced to remain on earth, and Niulang asked her to be his wife. They lived happily together until the Jade Emperor found out about it and forced the return of his daughter. The two lovers were then further separated by a wide river created in the sky, called the Milky Way. However once a year, all the magpies in the world would take pity on them and form a bridge so that the lovers may once again be together for a single night. This unification takes places on the seventh night of the seventh moon and the Chinese celebrate the day as Qixi Festival, (The Night of Sevens), also known as the Magpie Festival. The day is also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day, Tanabata (Shichiseki) in Japan, Chilseok in Korea and That Tich in Vietnam.

Days of Qixi Festival: 2010-08-16 • 2011-08-06 • 2012-08-23 • 2013-08-13 • 2014-08-02 • 2015-08-20 • 2016-08-09 • 2017-08-28 • 2018-08-17 • 2019-08-07 • 2020-08-25  (wikipedia.com)

That night, we waited for the plumber to come for the camera inspection after work. It never happened. His dog had to be put down.

I need to do offerings of some kind, or burn some incense.


TENTH DAY (to the Thirteenth Day) – 初十
Tuesday-Friday, Feb. 23-26, 2010

Friends and relatives are invited to dinner and the visitings continue.

It has been raining, sleeting and snowing continuously. It’s only going to get worse. However, the Chinese believe that rain/water = money.  Maybe it’s a good sign?  Can’t hurt right?

So the supervisor finally came back to inspect. He gave us the ok…yes, there is a but, I saw some water near the main.  Should I be worried?  He said not to be. Ok…but you know, I’m not burning a hole through my pocket just to be “sort of” ok.  He knows I’m going to be up his ass when the shit hits the fan.

Insurance just called me back. Told me that they weren’t covering this mess.  Of course not. Why would they?! But they asked me what my damages were inside the house. I told them I cleaned it up myself. Somehow they found the equation of two people cleaning a house in a form of a number. That magic number? $400. That doesn’t even cover my deductible of $500.  Great! They are sending “people” over to see if I missed anything that can be claimed.  Should I make a mess?

Finally, even though it was dug right out to the middle of the street, the city claims no responsibility.

Thursday Feb. 26, 2010
Woke up to a heavy downpour, and after I walked Jessie, it stopped raining, and started snowing – heavily! It’s been doing that for the past 10 hours and will not stop until tomorrow at 6 pm. When we got home, the car couldn’t even get into the driveway. I had to immediately jump out of the car to shovel. By the time I was done with the heavy, wet snow, my shirt was dripping wet from the inside. This is what you call hard labor.

Did anyone say, “SNOW DAY!” for tomorrow?!


The Thirteenth Day is dedicated to General Guan Yu 關羽 of Romance of the Three Kingdoms fame, the Chinese God of War. He is known for his bravery, loyalty and strength.

It is also officially my SNOW DAY!!!

the snow

The Snow

But my back, hips, hands and feet are in pain from all that heavy lifting of wet snow. Had lunch for breakfast, and took a nap that lasted into the early afternoon. Then all the house chores were done and the cooking for the week completed. When dinner rolled around, I was famished! I “forgot” to have lunch.

Digging out

Digging out


FOURTEENTH DAY – 初十四
Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010

It is a day of preparation for the Lantern Festival/Chap Goh Meh on the 15th night/last day of Chinese New Year.

Since this is the last weekend of Chinese New Year, it gives us an excuse to stuff our faces even more (not that we really need an excuse to eat). If all goes well, we will be meeting my aunt and uncle in NJ for lunch.

hubs and i

Hubs and I @ Noodle Chu's

the sisters

the sisters

We drove to Parsippany for dim sum at Noodle Chu’s. Eh…so so. I thought the dim sum at China Chef in Secaucus is better (although the service in the latter leaves much to be desired). We then ended up at my aunt’s place for tea, dessert and juicy stories.

Younger sister parading her funky socks

After we left my aunt’s place in Wayne, we headed straight to Loehmann’s for a little shopping (bought two hoodies and a pair of tights for $5 each, while my sisters bought clothes and shoes) and headed home with a bucket of Popeye’s Chicken and cajun fries. YUM-O!  Fried food is just too good, but way too bad for you.


FIFTEENTH DAY – 十五夜
Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010

The 15th day is known as the Lantern Festival, but for us, we know it more as Chap Goh Meh. Sweetened rice dumplings 湯圓 is consumed to mark the unity of a family.

It is a day that my mom traditionally cooks for her brothers and my sifu’s family. My father would have made his infamous Hakka dish, oo-ee-pan/yam cake, days ahead. The sea cucumber would have been soaked and cleaned and ditto for the dried squid for my father’s other Hakka dish kiu nyuk 扣肉. The pig stomach would have been thoroughly cleaned, cooked, scrapped and the procedure repeated again with salt. The chicken wings would have been marinated with curry powder. The cucumbers would have been sliced and carved, turning it into an edible decoration for the plates of dishes prepared. By the early morning, the pig stomach soup would have been boiling, and the abalone thinly sliced. The veges would have been cut, sliced, julienned and diced, as would the mushrooms and dried shrimps for daddy’s oo-ee-pan.

So much goes into the preparation, and as my mom says, but it is finished in just two seconds. Anti-climatic.

All that is left of Chinese New Year this year is a very holey pocket. All the same, we had a chance to celebrate the festival with friends and family. And THAT, is the most important thing.

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3 thoughts on “15 days of Chinese New Year

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