Farewell Ox – Welcome Tiger

It can only be Lunar New Year! At my aunties’ house, it means only one thing – lots of food to celebrate!

In the Vietnamese tradition of Tet (Lunar New Year), we pay homage to our ancestors, clean house and make merry with family and friends. No matter how old you are, there is always someone older and in my family, the older generation gives lucky money to those who are younger so I give lucky money to my younger cousins in those ubiquitous red envelopes. In my own house, I was fortunate that my regular housekeeping date was this past Friday. As a result, the house was clean in time for Tet! You never want to clean on Tet because you will be sweeping away all of your good luck for the year. Good enough reason for me!

This year I loaded up my rented mini-van (A vehicle that I normally do NOT drive) and took my newly found soccer mom attitude to pickup my friends who couldn’t celebrate with their families. We all joked about how each of us was preparing to each birth a food baby by the time we would finish with dinner. That wasn’t too far from the truth!

The rule in my family’s house is if you leave hungry, it’s your fault! Here are some of the many dishes that were served:

We started the evening with a full on pig – oink oink!! This isn’t normally traditional Lunar New Year fare but my cousin decided to throw in the pig for good measure and we didn’t back down from the food challenge of eating some good ole fashion pork. You may remember my affinity for pork, right? If you can believe, this is the 4th whole pig that I have butchered. I can handle myself with a cleaver!

Since it was also Valentine’s Day, a lot of us wore red, however I wore red because it’s a lucky color for a special occasion. To set the record straight, I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day – it never was a holiday that I celebrated regardless of the status of my relationship (in facebook speak). In fact, back in the day, I had an anti-Valentine’s Day party and invited people over but then again, when you’re in your early 20s and live in New Orleans, do you really need an excuse to have a libation? As a friend earlier posted in his facebook status, he wished that a fat, freak baby with wings growing out if its back would impale you with an arrow. That pretty much sums it up for me….and oh yeah, if you believe in the superstitions related with the lunar new year, the year of the Tiger is not the year to get married. Bridezillas will need to wait until we get to the year of the Rabbit/Cat which is on Feb 3rd 2011. Prepare for a long engagement.

But back to my aunties’ house, in addition to all the wonderful festivities, earlier in the week it was my mom’s birthday so I brought a cake to celebrate from a wonderful Korean bakery in Annandale called Shilla. The cake is a yellow sponge and the frosting is a whipped cream. My family prefers eating fruit after a meal and this cake had fruit mixed in between the layers so it was the best of both worlds. We generally also like desserts that aren’t very sweet.

None of my friends speak Vietnamese and they valiantly wished one another and my family, “Chúc mừng năm mới!”. GREAT JOB – it took my whole life to learn it so you ROCK for even attempting it. There was even a string of “firecrackers” to light up the living room and provide the sounds of traditional firecrackers. Although, one could think that you were in the middle of a drive-by shooting….not such a great idea if you have a throbbing headache (thanks CK for your patience with my family’s exuberance!)

It was really wonderful to be with loved ones during this celebratory time and it brings to mind that it is a time for new beginnings. They say that the people that you invite to your home on the 1st day of the Lunar New Year will represent what your year will bring. If that is the case, then it will bring my family and me good fortune, patience, wisdom, fun, loyalty, and friendship.

The lovely photo credits belong to my wonderful friend, Janelle Hu (Ms. photographer extraordinaire!)

Chúc mừng năm mới!

MXM

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