Monday, February 15, 2016

Celebrating the Beginning of the Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year started on February 8 and we celebrated in style right here in the Middle East - What Fun!

Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year. Chinese traditionally celebrated the start of a new year of farm work, and wished for a good harvest (when most were farmers). This has now evolved to celebrating the start of a new business year and wishing for profits and success in various vocations. 

Although there are many interesting legends and stories explaining the start of the Chinese New Year festival, the main two reasons for the festival are:
--To celebrate a year of hard work, have a good rest, and relax with family
--To wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year

Our Bahraini celebration started with the monthly AWA (American Women's Association) meeting themed "Year of the Monkey." There were some beautiful dresses on the ladies.

A good friend, DT gave me a hand made red envelope (very impressive). I love the little Chinese red envelopes and always thought they were intended to give good luck.  When I looked them up the Internet I found out some interesting facts. 
This was just TOOOO cute! Thank you, DT.
I have kept these red envelopes in my desk drawer for at least 20 years.

Chinese people love the color red, and regard red as the symbol of energy, happiness and good luck. Sending red packets is a channel for sending good wishes and luck. 
Actually, the significance of red packets is the red paper, not the money inside. Wrapping money in red packets is hoped to bring more happiness and blessing to the receivers. Hence, it is impolite to open a red packet in front of the person who gives it to you. I messed up on this one and opened it in front of DT. She had the nicest note inside with a shiny American penny. I hope I did not offend her.   
In China, the red packet is called yasui qian (压岁钱 /yaa-sway chyen/), which means 'suppressing ghosts money'. Those who receive a red packet are wished another year negotiated safely and peacefully.

According to legend, on New Year's Eve, besides the monster Nian, there was a demon named Sui that came out to terrify children while they were asleep.
On one New Year's Eve, in an official’s family household, the parents gave their child eight coins to play with in order to keep him awake, so as to avoid him being hurt by the demon. The child wrapped the coins in red paper, opened the packet, re wrapped it, and reopened it until he was too tired and fell asleep. Then the parents placed the packet with eight coins under his pillow.
When Sui tried to touch his head, the eight coins emitted a strong light and scared the demon away. The eight coins turned out to be eight fairies. From then on, giving red envelopes became a way to keep children safe and bring good luck.
The next Saturday, we ventured to the Bahrain Farmer's market to buy some wonderful locally grown vegetables. It was a very interesting experience. We ate waffles and bought the most beautiful vegetables.

My grocery bag carried some really unusual items. They were delicious!
It was impressive that so much is grown here in Bahrain.

Our culinary journey through the New Year Celebration continued with an Asian friend who also works for D – PF invited us for a 7 course Chinese New Year dinner.  

We ate and celebrated for over 2 hours. PF has a favorite restaurant in Manama called Beijing Chinese Restaurant.  It is what I would imagine is a very authentic local Chinese restaurant. Not fancy, very "down home" and the food is OVER the top FANTASTIC.  Thanks PF!

We ate in a small private dining room. In the center of the table was a lazy Susan we could rotate to refill our plates. Waiters just kept bringing food and bringing food and bringing food for 2 hours….we were stuffed! Fish of all kinds, lobster, shrimp, dumplings and of course Peking Duck, their specialty.  

I would never know what to order in a Chinese restaurant and that made having PF treat us to the New Year specialties exceptionally wonderful.

Last year PF invited us to celebrate the New Year with him as well so this year the ladies all got together and gave him a miniature orange tree. Oranges are good luck in Chinese culture.

Our week long New Year celebration ended with Valentine's Day and a Skype with little LW and his mom, BHB. Remember, Sunday is Monday here in the Sand Box so it would have to take place after Hubby D got home from work.

Sadly, Hubby D was caught in traffic on the Saudi causeway coming home. They closed the causeway because it was the anniversary of the 2011 uprising here in Bahrain. It did not open to traffic for 3 hours.  His commute home took over 4 hours. He did not arrive home until after 10PM, almost 10:30.  

I went ahead and talked to LW on Skype at the designated time.  He seemed to remember me.  He is walking better and can throw you a kiss.  The kiss part is very important as I need lots of his kisses!  It was a great Valentine's Day gift and would have been perfect if D had been there. 

Thanks to KW for taking this photo for me.
Even Guinness, the dog got into the action.
Hubby D did bring me some beautiful roses (when he finally arrived home), so that was really, really, really nice. I love flowers and will enjoy them for many days to come. Life is good.

Here is a virtual red envelope from me to you. May it bring you prosperity and keep you safe throughout the new year.

Happy Year of the Monkey!


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