More Than Just Red Envelopes

Frances Wu, Contributing Writer

For most Chinese kids, Chinese New Year means two things: food and money. Chinese New Year is the start of a new year for the Lunar Calendar, a calendar that changes according to the cycles of the moon.

The New Year occurs around late January to early February, depending on the Lunar Calendar. The date fluctuates, but tradition doesn’t: every single year, my parents have friends and family over for dinner, wishing each other good luck and fortune, and above all, cherish that we have all survived another year with good health.

Some of the most important parts are food and red envelopes, which are envelopes that are decorated with auspicious symbols, like this year’s zodiac, the horse. Traditionally, when one hosts a Chinese New Year party, the attendees generally bring red envelopes for the children of the hosts as a thank you.

Traditional Chinese foods eaten on New Year’s Day are all symbolic. One of the most popular foods is Nian Gao, which means “year cake,” and symbolizes reaching new goals and heights throughout the new year. My dad likes to take the Nian Gao and dip in a scrambled egg mix before cooking them.

Another important food is fish, which is usually served with the head and tail still on the body, because it represents a good start and end to the coming year. My own family usually has a tray, with eight different sections, filled to the brim with different types of candies, nuts, and pumpkin seeds.

The Chinese have proverbs that fit every type of situation, and Chinese New Year is no exception. Gong Xi Fa Cai, for example, is a four word greeting for wishing prosperity to someone in the coming months. Many children have added another line after it as a joke, transforming the saying into Gong Xi Fa Cai, Hong Bao Na Lai. This means, “Happy New Year, now give me the money (Hong Bao).”

With so many delicious types of food and symbolic events, Chinese New Year is definitely one my favorite holidays of the year.