Year of the Snake

Mum turns the Chinese character for “fortune” (福) upside down to symbolise the arrival of fortune, because the pronunciation of “upside down” in Cantonese is the same as “arrive”. Luck and fortune is such a big part of the Chinese culture – the character itself on numerous Chinese New Year decorations; some people “pray for fortune” (祈福) at temples;  Fu Star being one of the Three Lucky Gods (福祿壽), which have had a place in the living room of wherever we’ve lived.

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My dad bought me a pinwheel on Chinese New Years Eve at the Flower Markets (年宵). He told me that as pinwheels spin it is to “turn fortune around” (轉運).

“But dad, what if I’m already lucky? Does that mean that my luck will be turned away?”

“Uh…It will turn more luck your way.”

I felt like a five year old again. Or that my dad was talking to my five year old self again. Either way. Chinese traditions / superstitions sometimes do baffle me.

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Matthew 5:1-12 was read out in church on Chinese New Years Day. It was about what it meant to be blessed with grace and fortune. And in the sermon we were reminded of the difference between what we want and what we need. It’s easy to complain how fortunate other people are, and how unlucky we ourselves in comparison have been.  But yes although it may seem to be unfortunate in some circumstances, faith must always be kept for things will turn around, and that luck will eventually come our way. Plus, although others may seem luckier than ourselves, it does not mean that we need what was fortunate to them.

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Lunch on Chinese New Years Day. Drunken Chicken, Pork Knuckle, Bean curd and Vermicelli, Bamboo Shoots, Stir Fry Rice Noodles. I love my aunt’s cooking and have been known to polish off half a plate of steamed chicken all by myself (not this year due to the dread of many gym sessions to come after this CNY binge.)

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Collage on my grandmother’s coffee table. Photos of my mum, uncles, me…and a person sorely missed. 每逢佳節倍思親. Festivals are there to remind you of all the people who surround you. But the significance of one red pocket instead of the two that I’ve been used to getting when I was younger is a tug at my heartstrings.

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“Neen Go” – New Year Cake and Shou Star with waterlilies and the flowers my mother was named after.

It’s been five years, and I’m home.

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I actually failed the first time making this, because I don’t know what I was thinking and poured hot water instead of cold to make the water chestnut flour paste, which made the flour congeal almost immediately and ruined the texture of the pudding. This was before Chinese New Years and my dad told me that I had to make a successful one before New Years Day or it would be bad luck. More Chinese superstitions…

Water Chestnut Pudding
(based on a recipe taught to me when I was in Year 7 in Home Ec class!)

600ml water
100g water chestnut flour
2 tsp cooked oil
75g rock sugar
8 water chestnuts, peeled and diced

1.   Grease a cake tin.
2.   Boil 300ml water in a saucepan, and mix with the rock sugar until the sugar dissolves, then add the water chestnuts and bring down the heat to low.
3.   Add 300ml water into the flour and mix til a smooth paste is formed. Add the paste and the oil to the saucepan and mix until translucent.
4.   Pour the translucent mixture into a cake tin and steam for 25 minutes. Allow to cool.
5.   Slice and fry in a pan with egg (optional) to serve.

Image“don’t fall asleep counting sheep, count blessings, then sleep”

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