Friday, February 8, 2008

Chinese New Year

Welcome year of the rat! Last night Lyle and I inched out of our comfort zone a bit and hosted a Chinese New Year dinner. There were 3 families here for a total of 14 people. One of the guests was a woman that I visit teach who just moved here from China. It was a little intimidating to serve my somewhat Americanized version of a Chinese New Year dinner to someone who really knows how Chinese New Year should be done! Thankfully she was very sweet and complimentary, and most importantly, she kept a good sense of humor! Here is Maya, (our girl born in the year of the Rooster) modeling Madeline's New Year's dress.

Red and gold are the colors of Chinese New Year. The banner on the door says something like "Wealth and Prosperity" (or so I was told by the teenage boy who works at "Party City". I'm sure he's an authority on such things!)

A woman from Lyle's office gave him the decorations of the boy and girl. I can't remember their exact symbolism, but I know they represent something good!

Maya had so much fun "helping" me to get the decorations up. What probably should have taken an hour literally took all day. She was too excited about the party to take a decent nap.
We hung a curtain of Chinese characters and symbols in the entrance to the den.
I should have taken a picture of the delicious food! We had:
Chinese pickles
Jiaozi dumplings
Spicy bean sprouts
Asparagus salad
Char Sui barbequed pork with hot mustard sauce
Stir fried pork and noodles
Fried rice
VInegar fish (the WHOLE fish---head, eyes, tail...) It was served on a bed of rice and bok choy and was quite impressive.
A fruit platter
Nian Gao Chinese new year cake (it has a layer of red beans in the middle!)

It all turned out so well. Even the new year cake, which made me a little nervous, was actually quite good. It kind of tasted like a rice pudding. Everyone helped get things together, but Madeline was a lifesaver. As soon as she got home from school, she just rolled up her sleeves and got things done! She's a girl who always appreciates a good theme party!

You can see the mandarin orange on each plate. Citrus fruits are always served at the new year and they represent prosperity and health. The noodles represent longevity so they must not be cut! The fish was served whole because the head represents a good start to the new year and the tail a good finish. Serving foods whole also symbolizes family togetherness.

The girls looked lovely in their dresses. No amount of pleading will get Adam into traditional Chinese clothing! I don't know if you can see it in the picture (although she is sporting her toothy picture face), but Maya hit her mouth and now has a very gray front tooth. "...The old gray tooth, it ain't what it used to be...."

Maya is such an American toddler, that any Chinese celebrations feel just as foreign to her as to any other American. When she sat down at her seat, she picked up her chopsticks with a quizzical look and yelled to me in the kitchen, "Hey, Mom! I need a fork!" She said it with an expression like, "Someone accidently put sticks next to my plate. What's up with THAT?"

Maya is getting more amd more brave around Chinese women and actually sat on my friend's lap for a couple of minutes. This was really big for her! It didn't last long though and when my friend spoke to Maya in Mandarin, Maya burst into tears and clung to me for a good 5 minutes. I'm sure she doesn't have any memories, but when she hears Chinese women speaking Mandarin, some feeling deep down is brought to the surface and she gets weepy and very clingy.
It was interesting talking to my friend who, like Maya, is also from the south of China. She said that Maya has a very typical southern Chinese look about her and that the women from the south are generally much more quiet and shy than northern women. Hmmm....Either we were mistakenly given a northern girl, or we've Americanized those characteristics out of her!
The dinner was wonderful and I'm so glad we did it. There's so much to love about the different cultures of the world.

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