Myth: How it all Began
According to legend, in ancient China , the Nián (年) was a man-eating beast from the mountains (in other versions from under the sea), which came out every 12 months somewhere close to winter to prey on humans. The people later believed that the Nián was sensitive to loud noises and the colour red, so they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of the colour red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations. Guò nián (过年), which means to celebrate the new year, literally means the passover of the Nián.
A Must: Reunion Dinner
Bountiful Harvest Claypot(Bao Luo Wan You)
RECIPE: For those interested
Bountiful Harvest Claypot
(Bao Luo Wan You)
15 medium prawns
15 fresh scallops
180g fish maw
15 dried mushrooms (soak overnight)
350g sea cucumber (buy pre-soaked ones)
20g ground flat fish
15 slices abalone
15g chopped garlic
1/2 tsp chicken powder
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
dash of sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbs oyster sauce
1 1/2 Tbs light soya sauce
1/2 Tbs dark soya sauce
1 Tbs Hwa Tiao wine
dash of sesame oil
dash of pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs potato starch
3 Tbs water
1. Marinate prawns and scallops with seasoning (A). Set aside for about 15 minutes.
2. Blanch spinach in boiling water and set aside.
3. Heat wok with oil, add in chopped garlic and fry till fragrant. Add in fish maw, dried mushrooms, sea cucumber and flat fish. Add water and allow it to cook for about 10 minutes. Add seasoning (B).
4. Thicken above mixture slowly with potato starch to the desired consistency and add abalone. Transfer to a claypot.
5. Blanch prawns and scallops in hot oil and place on top.
A reunion dinner is held on New Years Eve where members of the family, near and far, get together for the celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. Several foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. The New Year's Eve dinner is very sumptuous and traditionally includes chicken and fish. Several of the Chinese food names are homophones for words that also mean good things. For example, fish (鱼), is eaten, but not completely. The remainder is stored overnight, as the Chinese saying goes "may there be surpluses every year" (年年有餘).
Red Packets $$$
Traditionally, red packets are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is common for adults to give red packets to children. Red packets are also known as Ya Sui Qian (压岁钱), literally, the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit ) during this period. The act of requesting for red packets is normally called (Mandarin: 討紅包, 要利是 or Cantonese: 逗利是) A married person could not turn down such request as it means that this person would be "out of luck" in the new year (無利是).
Believe It or Not?
Do’s & Don’ts during this Auspicious Occasion
Opening windows and/or doors is considered to bring in the good luck for the new year.
Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to 'scare away' ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. (However, cleaning the house after New Year's Day is frowned upon)
Some say that you will be healthy for the rest of the year if you bathe yourself in pomelo leaves the night before the new year.
Sweets are eaten to ensure a "sweet" year ahead.
Wearing red panties and bra are supposed to bring good luck to the wearer during Chinese New Year.
Some believe that what happens on the first day of the new year reflects the rest of the year to come. Asians will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to obtain luck and prosperity.
Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese. The word "shoes" is a homophone for the word “rough" in Cantonese or "evil" in Mandarin.
Washing your hair is also considered to be washing away one's own luck (although modern hygienic concerns take precedence over this tradition)
Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious.
Buying a pair of pants is considered bad luck. The word "pants"(kù) is a homophone for the word "bitter"(kŭ) in Cantonese. (Although some perceive it to be positive, as the word 'pants'(fu) in Cantonese is also a homophone for the word “wealth".)
Sweeping the floor is usually forbidden on the first day, as it will sweep away the good fortune and luck for the new year.
Buying books is bad luck because the word for "book" is a homonym to the word "lose".
Avoid clothes in black and white, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional funeral colour.