Sunday, February 7, 2016

Monkey Business

We celebrated the Year of the Monkey today, on Chinese New Year's eve.  It was our usual day of rituals and feasting, with the kids old enough to help out more with both.

Here they are carefully molding the rice for the presentation table to the ancestors.

Sis makes some pork meatballs for the broth.

The family altar where we say prayers to the Buddha.
Offerings to the Buddha, which the kids helped transfer after prayers.

Bud helps pour liquor for the ancestors.

The table for the ancestors.

There was a new empty chair at the table, for Mama's grandfather, Lao Gong.

Aren't these pretty?  Red bean paste buns.

Chicken, pork, and duck.

Paper money to burn for the ancestors.

Burning the paper money.
Not pictured is the groaning table of food that we sit down to after all of the prayers.  Many of the foods are reheated and combined in soups and stir fries.  I love the stir-fried fresh bean leaves and also the Buddha noodles with bean curd skin, dates, mushrooms, and gingko nuts.  Oh, and the taro with coconut milk.  The kids love the soup with the meatballs and fish cakes and the fresh chicken.  This year there was duck, which Ma made herself, with brown sugar and black soy sauce and a long salt-curing and then simmering.  Mama loves it all (except gingko nuts!)  And there are so many candies and sweets, each year is slightly different depending on what is available where (Ma and Gong visit dozens of stores in various areas--Manhattan Chinatown, Flushing, Bay Ridge, Avenue Q, etc.--in the week or so leading up to today.  In fact, one shop owner harassed Ma for buying so much!  And wouldn't even give her a box, wanted to charge her for it.  But the shop makes old-fashioned Chinese sweets so Ma puts up with them!)  This year there were candied kumquats and lotus seeds, various nut and seed bars, red bean paste buns, coconut buns, "smiley face" sesame balls, these peanut-filled "empanadas," sponge cakes, sesame buns with lotus paste, and these awful Osmanthus candies that Mama found (they looked good, though.)  You'll notice that most of the foods have red dots--Ma meticulously paints each piece or places a small paper cut out dot, as a blessing.  Her hands were noticeably red today.

Also, you can't quite tell that most of us are wearing red along with a new item of clothing--this year, we all got black Millennium Falcon t-shirts!!!   The house is also decorated with lots of red and gold, both old decorations of symbolic paper money and new Monkey things.  I don't think I took any photos of the decorations, though I did shoot a video of my favorite singing turtle, which flashes while you hear the song "Gong xi ni!" (sung over and over again in a squeaky girl's voice.)  I'll see if I can eventually link to the video here.

At the very end of the day, right before we pack the car with enough leftovers for days plus makings for the Buddha soup on the seventh day, we exchange red envelopes, "ang bao."  This is when we say our little chant, ""Xing jia eu-ei, xing ni huac chai, ang bao tua tua kai."  The amount of money in your envelope is related to your age, which is calculated slightly different--you are one on the day you are born (you get credit for womb time) and then turn 2 on your first Chinese New Year, so you are always about 2 years older than your Western age.  So in this case, the kids got a multiple of $12, plus $2 for luck.  (They get more than the adults, being kids, but later when they have jobs, they are supposed to give us envelopes.)  

And so we drove home, ready to start a new year . . . .which might just begin with a snow delay or even a day off!

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