Happy Chinese New Year! {pronounced ‘kung hey fat choy‘} Say goodbye to the year of the dragon and hello to the year of the ssssnake. Chinese New Year is simultaneously spectacular and confusing. Well, especially for those of us who are experiencing it for the first time. Me. I have been tiptoeing and gawking about lunar new year decorations. The most important of these traditions is the reunion dinner. Reunion dinner is on new year’s eve and is comparable to an American Thanksgiving in spirit, but not in food. Chinese typically eat fish and dumplings. One of our gifts was a red container full of chocolate, lotus seeds, peanuts, pistachios, and several types of pumpkin seeds. I am unsure of the significance of each of these items, but we will try them all. After new year’s eve dinner is ‘shou sui.’ During shou sui, the family waits until midnight to set off firecrackers. Firecrackers are thought to scare away the ‘nian’ {mythical ferocious characters}. PS – It’s also good luck to be the first one to set off your firecrackers.


Then there are the ‘lai sees.’ Sigh. Oh, the lai sees…This is what trips up most of us newbies. Red envelopes containing crisp, new paper currency. Usually only given to younger children or those that are single. Do not give a lai see to married couples. The amount should be an even number, but never containing the number four. Not even two twenties. The word, si,  meaning four in chinese/cantonese sounds  like the word for death. So therefore, you should not jinx someone with an unlucky amount of money for the beginning of the new year. Oh, and never give out a lai see before the new year, also bad luck.

Traditional Chinese New Year Rhyme

You’ll find whenever the New Year comes
The Kitchen God will want some plums.
The girls will want some flowers new;
The boys will want firecrackers, too.
A new felt cap will please papa
And a sugar cake for dear mama.

first image via www.discoverhongkong.com

2 Responses to Kung Hei Fat Choi!

  1. Teri Centner Teri Centner says:

    Oops. I put $1 bills in my red envelopes for the Lion Dance at Hollywood East Cafe’s Dim Sum on Chinese New Year. Is that bad luck for me? Or for the lion?

  2. Anne says:

    Love your stories!

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