It has been three years since I came to the U.S. During these years, I couldn’t enjoy the Chinese Lunar New Year with my family. The only thing I can do is to call all my relatives and wish them a happy new year. Although here in the U.S, there are many enjoyable events, decorations, and parties during the New Year time, the Chinese New Year is much more enjoyable, especially when one can spend time with family.
Several weeks ago, I talked with a friend (who is from Mexican) about the fantastic Chinese New Year traditions. Surprisingly, he told me some traditional rituals about Mexican New Year.
Chinese New Year
New Year’s Eve Dinner
Similar to the Christmas tradition for most Americans, the New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner for Chinese. It is usually a family reunion dinner, especially for those with family member away from home. Every year, there are more than three million Chinese travelling daily back to their hometowns during the New Year period.
In the New Year’s Eve dinner, people always have fish, chicken, pork, duck and other kinds of meat. In the Chinese tradition, if a family has a lot of meat for the dinner, the family must be very rich. In addition, dumplings are the most important dish in northern china. Meat and dumplings mean prosperous. Other dishes are depending on personal preference and usually there are at least ten dishes served. The majority of Chinese will have New Year’s Eve dinner at home instead of restaurant.
Shou Sui means after the New Year’s Eve dinner, family member will normally stay awake during the night. According to tales and legends, there was a mythical beast called the “Year”. At the night of New Year’s Eve, the “Year” will come out to harm people, animals, and proprieties. Later people found that the “Year” is afraid of red color, fire, and loud sound. Therefore, at the New Year’s Eve night, people will launch fireworks, put on some fires, and stay awakes the whole night to fend of the “Year”.
Red packet is a red envelope with money in it, range from one to a few thousand Chinese Yuan. Usually the red racket is given by adults, especially married couple, and elderly to young children in the New Year days. It was believed that the money in the red packet will suppress the evil from the children, keep the children healthy, and long living.
Mexican New Year
Eat twelve grapes
Similar to Chinese, Mexicans believe New Year will bring good luck. As the New Year’s Eve midnight countdown begins, Mexicans always eat 12 grapes making a wish for each one, representing the 12 months of the next year. A sweet grape means it will be a good month next year and a sour grape means a bad month. This Twelve Grapes of Luck, also known as ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’, dates back to the late 1800’s. However, it became more prevalent in 1895 when the grape growers had a huge crop of grapes harvested in the Alicante area of Spain. The growers in the area proposed the promotion of “The 12 Grapes” in order to help sell the large quantity of grapes. They promoted the New Year’s idea and the tradition has been carried on through the years.
Different from Chinese, Mexicans usually host many street and public festivities to celebrate the exciting new year with people from different family. Some large cities may set-off a publicly-funded firework display. For example, in Mexico City, the Zocalo (main plaza) and the area around the Angel of Independence will be filled with revelers shouting and dancing-in the New Year.
Traditional Mexican New Year Eve Food – Bacalao