a REAL Chinese New Year
In the morning we will have breakfast at the matriarchs house, (Pearl’s mother), who lives in the heart of Chinatown (just off Smith St for those of you who know the city). Breakfast will consist of red noodles (a thin, spaghetti like noodle in a red sauce with chicken), fish of some kind, pork, soup (often this is a sea cucumber or another seafood soup), a second chicken dish, a green vegetable (I can never tell what it actually is), fried tofu (in my honor…love the stuff), chinese tea, coffee and assorted drinks.
Assembled and dropping in throughout the morning will be Pearl’s three brothers and their wives, assorted kids (all grown) and family friends. Usually 20-30 in all. Each “kid” will approach each elder and offer a pair of oranges and say “Cong Xi Fa Cai” (happy new year).
They will bow. In return for this formal greeting they will receive an Ang Pow. This is a brightly decorated envelope, usually red and gold, that contains money. It is considered very bad form to open your ang pow at that time. For kids not in the immediate family this might be 4-8 bucks each. Your own kids might get 10 or 20. The matriarch gets at least 100 from each.
This meal will last for hours as people come and go. At a certain point though, everyone will assemble and go pay respects to the deceased patriarch, Pearl’s dad. His ashes are now housed at a beautiful temple nearby.
During this visit, food will be offered, incense will be burned and paper items will be burned which send him items he may need in the afterlife. Large burning drums are set up for this function. Stores sell paper shirts, ties, pants, food, money…even houses and cars for this purpose. Yeah, I know, but don’t knock it. Its no wierder than confession or eating dry crappy wafers and drinking old grape juice.
In the afternoon we will go visit family friends. Each will have snacks and drinks (non-alchoholic) and it is a time to catch up and chat. In the evening it is back to the matriarchs house for more food, gambling and an extended game of mahjong. This game can easily last all night.
I don’t play the serious stuff because, although I have learned and can play the game, I don’t play anywhere near their level. Games can easily be worth $100 a round or more depending on the agreed upon limits.
The last two days are rest days. I spend them blogging, surfing and playing Upwords with Pearl.
I’m thrilled to say that I, an ang mo (white guy) have been accepted to participate in this wonderful weekend. I hope you enjoy yours. Cong Xi Fa Cai!