Relatives in Taiwan just sent me a quick email about connecting on Chinese New Year’s Eve. To help decipher, here are cross-cultural notes (longer than the email itself!):
- Because of time difference, 12 hours, we clarify by saying “my time” or “your time.” If you see me bleary-eyed my time morning, it meant that I was up late chatting with my sister “her time late night” after kids bedtime and she’s free to talk.
- My sisters and I can speak Chinese but not readily read or write it. (I had limited schooling years ago, but don’t use it,Â you lose it.) As a result, we use a combination of pinyin, phonetics, Chenglish and sometimes IM talk to convey Chinese terms and proverbs. Makes for a very interesting multilingual email of sorts, and occasional miscommunication!
- New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important family ritual of the year and a night of unity, reunion, harmony, and paying respects to ancestors.Â Kids can stay up late and seniors do the “longevity vigil” as a positive sign of their vitality and life span. Popular dishes include anything whole (complete) or long (longevity): Whole chicken (more auspicious than “broken” chicken); Whole fish (don’t flip the fish, akin to old fisherman’s tale of flipping a boat); long noodles, long leafy greens, long string beans!
- New Year’s is celebrated over 15 days. During that time, most shops are closed, so you better do your shopping and get any business done before then!
- Lion dancing is another tradition during this time (Jan to Apr) to chase away demons and bring good luck to businesses and communities. Traditionally all-male dancers, I was in the first Women’s Lion Dance Troupe in New England! It’s much harder than it looks–lunging, squatting, bringing the huge lion head to life, performing a story, working the mouth, twitching the ears, –all at the same time! It’s was a great learning and bonding experience for all of us.
Maybe we can “chat” this weekend?Â Your Sat, around 11am – noon?Â It will be NY’s eve here and we will have just had our chroo-shi-yeh-wei-loo (NY’s eve gathering ’round the stove, sounds likeÂ “chef” “thin” “night” “hello?” “stove”), which is traditionally a hotpot meal.Â Get it, gather ’round the stove?
GONG XI FA CAI ! (Mandarin)
Gung Hoy Fat Choy! (Cantonese)
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!