Once the sun rose, the mom was the first one to get up, the children were the second, and then the rest. Mothers boiled water to make tea and served in a nice tea set with two lotus seeds dropped in each cup.
If in a family with elderly members, the grandies could lead the tea ceremony. They sat in the family room, waiting for their children to present a cup of lotus seed tea to them. Then, of course, the grandies would give them a red-pocket with cash inside. Next, Mom and Dad would present a cup of tea and say some good wish 'Kung Hei Fat Choi', to their parents. In return, the children got red pockets. Some were big and some were small. It did not matter, as long as the insides had numerous digits!
Secondly, we all went back to our room and began our move-over time. We wore our most recent, newest outfits (see 'Costumes') and shoes. Changed ourselves into Princesses or Princes of our own clan. Right! Afterward, we returned to the Main Hall and started our Ancestor worship -- a Taoist ceremony. This represented saying gratitudes and salutations to our ancestors at the 1st day of the year. The leader of the household would light a bundle of three incenses and place them in an urn of ash. Then, he would pick up a filled sake cup, say some happy and sincere wishes, and dripped the sake on the ground. The rest of the family followed the same procedures as he did.
Usually the women in our house would work together making those peanut sweet rice rolling balls (see 'Food' ). My grandma made sure we all ate some and said out loud, 'Now, we're all happy and will not quarrel with each other; instead, we are always sweet like these sticky balls'.
After our breakfast of sweet balls, we waited for our uncles to come. Traditionally, the 1st day of New Year is for the male side mainstream family. The younger generation had to go to the elder's house and visit. They ate those guest treats and played Mahjong. I remembered we usually tried to hit 2-3 uncles' places and return home by supper. The lunch for the 1st day was usually vegetarian in Hong Kong, then the supper would be salted steamed chicken, which had been prepared a few days ago and stored in the refrigerator, the thousand year old duck eggs, rice, and the Buddha delights.
The 2nd day of New Year is for the female side of the family. All the women would go to their Mom's home for gathering. This was the official day on which all the kitchen utensils could be used. Thus, we logically had a nine-course meal, similar to the reunion dinner. All of the dishes would have titles similar to those on the Chinese New Year proverbs posters. We also needed one extra dish called "faat ts'oï hò sz^", made with hairy moss and dried oysters, braised with smoked hog feet.
The 3rd day of the New Year was for everyone to yell at each other, "chik hao". It was ok to quarrel. I am sure it was a joke or the people tried to hold their anger and frustration for many days, to build up to this. Since it was all pint up from several days before New Years, logically they would need to expose their anger on the 3rd day. Right!
The 4th day of the New Year was the day to receive the 'Kitchen God', to have it come back and watch our kitchen, make sure no aliens would come to steal our food, and make sure our kitchen was always abundant. We usually began our visits to neighbours, friends, remote relatives and classmates on this day. For the children, they loved to hop from house to house and say "Kung Hei Faat Tsoi", and get their red pockets in return. They would repeat this from house to house until their pockets or purses were stuffed full.
The 7th day of New Year is celebrated for everybody's birthday. Of course, we had a chicken dish for supper and some hard-boiled eggs dyed in red (no food color when I was young. My grandies would boil a red-pocket envelope along with the eggs).
The last day of celebration is the 15th of the first month. It is a Chinese Valentines Day. Young couples and single males and females would hang out in the flower markets, where singles would find their pairs. Traditionally, the merchants would hang up paper lanterns, which were brightly lit at night. On the lantern, there you found poems written by anyone who was interested in doing it, word puzzles or jokes. Some merchants would give out prizes.
Then, we wrapped up our New Year Celebrations with sake toasts, and sweet rice sticky balls again. This was the day the children broke their piggy banks and their parents were busy picking up trash, and helping them make their bank deposit slips, and guided them on how to use all their bounty. Some of them persuaded their children to loan themselves the money. It was true! Normally, the kids were richer than their parents after this long period of celebration on New Year.
Copyright © 2000, Connie Lacobie
© 2019, Kevin & Connie Lacobie Some graphics by: www.Vecteezy.com