The Year of the Monkey: Chinese New Year in My Family
By Jen Kustin ( Guest Blogger)
This weekend is going to be a busy one. I will be cleaning my house with a fury and making numerous trips to the store. I need to make sure we made plenty of food, grabbed enough drinks, and have everything else I need for the big day…. Am I talking about Super Bowl? Nope. I’ll be breaking a sweat and running around like a mad woman in preparation for Chinese New Year! If you celebrate Chinese New Year, you know what I am talking about. There is a lot you have to do before New Year’s Day. If you are curious how my family celebrates, read on! Here are some tidbits on what we do, where we go, and also highlights of upcoming local events.
This year, Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) falls on Monday, February 8th. Last year it fell on February 19th and in 2017 it will be January 28th. Why the fluctuating dates? The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, which means it is based on the movement of the moon. Many celebrate on new year’s eve, which is what my family does. This year new year’s eve just so happens to fall on Super Bowl Sunday. Funny coincidence since both days will involve a day of celebration and a full spread of food and beverages.
One of twelve animals from the Chinese zodiac is associated with the new year. Every child born in that year will be considered to be born in the “Year of the (that animal). 2016 is Year of the Monkey. This is extra special to me because this is my zodiac sign (1980 babies represent!). People born in the Year of the Monkey are said to be intelligent, witty, ambitious, adventurous, and innovative. Why, thank you Chinese zodiac! I’ll take it! The zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle and is comprised of twelve different animals. So that means Year of the Monkey will not be back until 2028! As Prince would say: I’m going to party like it’s 1999–or in this case, party like it’s Year of the Monkey in 2016! It’s my year and I’m going to fully enjoy it!
Traditionally, it is considered bad luck to shower or do any kind of cleaning on the first day of the new year because it is as though you are washing and sweeping away good luck and fortune. My family loosely follows this tradition. Sure, we want to start off the new year right—that is why I will be cleaning my house in a fury like I mentioned before (need to get it cleaned up by Sunday!). We’ll hold off on any major cleaning on Monday, but we will be showering. We can’t not shower. I feel gross when I don’t shower. I won’t be excessive and decide to do an hour-long workout after my morning shower and then have to shower again. I will totally forgo my trip to the gym.
The color red is everywhere when Chinese New Year rolls around. Red banners, red lanterns, red firecrackers, red envelopes. There will be bits of gold here and there as well, but it’s really all about red. Red is the color of luck, wealth, and joy. My family and I will pick out something red to wear for our family gathering on new year’s eve as well as for new year’s day. Red envelopes with money (called lai see or lucky money) will be handed out. Only married couples are supposed to give out lai see, which means my husband and I need to get some crisp bills from the bank to give our son, daughter, nieces, and nephews. Another trip to make before Sunday!
Food. I love it and it has a big role in Chinese New Year celebrations. My family always has a feast and we will eat and eat and eat until we are stuffed. We have certain places we like to go to when shopping for our special spread. We hit up Ranch 99 for meats like char siu (bbq pork) and soy sauce chicken. Then we have to go to Asian Food Center for seafood and produce. Then we must make a trip to ABC Bakery to get an assortment of baos and egg tarts. I recommend all of these places for getting fresh, authentic food. If you looking to try a restaurant that serves delicious, authentic Chinese dishes, one of our favorites is Hong Kong Islander. They get busy and pretty packed, so try to get there early, especially if it’s a weekend. Want to check any or all out? Addresses for all the spots I mentioned are here:
- Ranch 99 – 4220 Florin Road, Sacramento 95823
- Shun Fat Market (SF Market) – 6930 65th St, Sacramento, CA 95823
- Asian Food Center – 1301 Broadway, Sacramento, 95818
- ABC Bakery – 1309 Florin Road, Sacramento 95831
- Hong Kong Islander – 5675 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95822
For those wanting to be a part of a Chinese New Year celebration, there are some upcoming local events you can attend:
- Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade
Saturday, 2/20, 5:15 – 8 PM
San Francisco, CA – Market and Second Street to Kearny and Jackson
FREE or $30 for bleacher seats
- 38th Annual Stockton Chinese New Year Celebration
Sunday, 3/6, 10 AM
Downtown Stockton, CA
- 136th Bok Kai Parade
Saturday, 3/12, 11 AM and Sunday, 3/13, 4 PM
Downtown Marysville, CA
I need to go now because I have some cleaning and shopping to do! Happy Chinese New Year and Happy Year of the Monkey!