We set these plates up on the same wooden table we have every year, with two lit red candlesticks and several small cups of whine. It’s definitely big ordeal. A picture picture dining table. Good food = Happy Ancestors, I hope.
We begin the ceremony by lighting incense sticks. Three to each person. I just googled the name for that, to be honest. We take these sticks outside and close our eyes, as if going into prayer. But instead of prayer, we wish. That’s what my mother always told me to do, and that’s what I’ve done ever since. We wish for good things to happen in the new upcoming year, whether it be wealth, happiness, or love. We bow with our incense three times, and then we stick them in a tin can placed by the front door. My mother says that ancestors will be able to smell the incense, which will lead them towards their meal. It does seem sort of Wiccan-like, but we’re not practicing Wicca by any means. I apologize to our neighbors, who were most likely confused.
Then, we begin my favorite part: the burning. My dad has used the same burning bowl ever since I can remember. He starts the fire and we begin our burning. My family gathers around the bowl in a sort of campfire-like setting on our porch. We throw in money, gold, and silver. I always say that we burn money, and people are shocked, but we are definitely not committing any felonies. The money we burn is not real, I assure you. Neither is the silver and gold. Everything we burn is symbolic of the wealth that we want to share with our ancestors. Paper printed with gold and silver ink along with imitated ten-thousand dollar bills. (Although, I do wish we had that much money to burn/share!) The ancestors will use this money in their afterlife or heaven, whichever you prefer to believe. It is a truly magnificent and fun form of celebration.
After my favorite part comes the firecrackers. First of all, I must apologize to my neighbors, because we did this late at night, and most likely scared them. The firecrackers are set in place to scared away evil souls that may try to enter our house. If my understanding is correct, this is also the reason why there are parades filled with firecrackers and dragons. Both to scare off evil beings. Again, we probably only scared off a few neighbors trying to find peace and quiet in the night. Luckily, our neighbors are generous and have left us with no complaints (not this year, at least).
This is the end of our burning celebration. Afterwards, we are left to eat and enjoy precious time with our family members. Just like any other holiday celebration.
This year, we burned a night early, so we had our dinner tonight. It was a joyous time indeed, especially with a few fun guests. Waiters from our restaurant joined us in feast tonight trying different foods varying from duck to snails. It was a wonderful celebration and, like any other celebration, could never have been so enjoyable without great friends and family. Thank you to all those that joined us tonight. Another special night to remember, and another joyful year to come! Happy Chinese New Year!
**I forgot to mention that when the clock strikes midnight and turns over into the new year, we have one last ceremonial gesture: the red envelopes. Many people are familiar with these red envelopes, if they’ve ever heard of Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, this may be because these envelopes are gifts and too many holidays are left with this focus. Red envelopes are given to children and young adults are filled with, in my case, money. I can’t say that I have any complaints. (Although, I don’t believe this should be the focus of the ceremony.)
Now, all that has been said and done, I enter myself into a new year: the year of the horse.
***I apologize for lack of photos. My mother took most of the pictures with her camera! Will post soon, xoxo.