Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kung He Fat Choi Everyone!!

Kung He Fat Choi everyone!! That means Happy New Year in Chinese and the Chinese New Year festival was on all weekend. The date for Chinese New Year varies each year depending on the moon, but the traditions and festivities stay the same.

Chinese New Year means a lot to me and brings back fantastic memories from my childhood. We used to attend Chinese New Year function held by the local Chinese Club every year. None of the fancy schmancy themed spectaculars, back then it was just held in the local hall or Chinese restaurant with a few balloons and paper lanterns.

The food though was simple, authentic and delicious! I remember the 'all you can eat' spread laid out in endless rows of bainmaries. We'd run around with all the other kids with paper lanterns on sticks shouting "Kung He Fat Choi!", haning out to be given the traditional "li see" (money envelopes) in red packets. Tradition says it's to contain and even $ number, we used to get 2 x 5c pieces  and we thought we were rich!!!!

The red symbolises good luck and given by the married to the unmarried. I only just found that out after a quick google search, I always thought it was just the adults to the children.

What I love the most though about Chinese New Year is the Lion Dance. Store owners tie li sees to "green" vegetables and fruit and hang them in the front of the store. The lion will dance, spit out the lettuce but keep the li see. It was to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year.

This year I desperately wanted to go into the Valley to be amongst the celebrations, eat good Chinese food and watch the Lion Dance. The Valley was PACKED with excited revellers - young, old, Asian and not Asian. It was great to see and a fantastic atmosphere, noisy with the sound of people, drums, cymbols and fire crackers. This year is extra special too, as it's the year of the Dragon - my year - and that only comes around every 12 years.

We had to pack into the restaurant with a stack of other people, but everyone was in such a good celebratory mood they didn't mind waiting for a table or being jostled around a bit. I had a divine tofu and shitake mushroom hotpot at Pho B and it was DELICIOUS!! Afterwards we had gelati at Schlix and watched the Lion Dance in the front of the local restaurants and shops.

I was sooo happy just watching the Lion Dance go from restaurant to restaurant. It's a hard, physical gig and the dancers inside the dragon put in so much effort.

The celebrations are way more elaborate then when I was a kid, but the atmosphere and goodwill are the same. It's about centuries old traditions, celebrating with family and friends, and hope and prosperity for the year ahead. I'm certainly all for that!

Kung He Fat Choi Everyone!!