So,how much money am I getting this year?" That's the question I hit my momwith every February. And every year she replies, "You will see," in herChinese accent.
February usually marks the month of the New Year accordingto the Chinese calendar. But for me, Chinese New Year is a payday. Usually Ireceive red envelopes, hong bao, which are the equivalent of Christmas presents.Instead of wondering what the present will be, though, it is the amount of moneyinside that is the mystery. The lucky money is actually a sign of prosperity, andthe envelopes are red to scare away evil spirits. I always have to wait weeks tofind out what my parents have in store for me.
I never knew where or howthe traditions of Chinese New Year originated, and I never gave it much thought,until my mom forced me to attend a special Chinese school, where we learned aboutthe traditions behind the famous celebration. I had no knowledge of how thehanging of the red papers or the firecrackers began; as selfish as it may sound,the only parts of the holiday that had ever concerned me were the hong baos andthe food.
I learned there was once a beast, the nien (which means"year"), who terrorized villages and even began feeding on people.Hoping to rid themselves of this monster, the villagers realized the beast wasafraid of the color red, fire and the loud crackling noise that bamboo makes whenburning. So when winter fell upon the village, the people hung red peach-paperson their doors, banged on instruments, burned bamboo (whose crackling sound wouldgive rise to the Chinese firecracker) and lit bonfires. When the beast came, hewas terrified and fled into the mountains, never to return. Year after year thevillagers continued the traditions, which they do to this day. Now, celebrationsfor the coming year continue until February 15th, the LanternFestival.
Chinese New Year is a wonderful holiday not just because of thehong bao but also because of the food. My mom is a culinary genius and...
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