The Year of the Rabbit started on February 3, 2011. “Everything will be hopping this year.” My grandpa would say, if he is still alive.
The Chinese New Year is the biggest family holiday. Like Christmas, it involves shopping, gift giving, feasting, and most importantly, family and friends gatherings. Getting ready takes days if not months.
There is a street in Taipei, named Dihua Street, where locals go to select delicacies for gifting or making their New Year’s Eve dinner, such as ink fish “eggs” (Don’t make me tell you more than this.), shark fins, numerous types of dried seafood, mushrooms, fruits, dried herbs that spice the dishes and add healing power to them, candies, nuts, and countless sorts of snack.
Every year, the municipal would announce the official opening date for Dihua Street for New Year’s shopping. January 16th it was this year. That’s when vendors are allowed to extend their shop space into the sidewalks.
Truckloads of bamboo are moved in for building temporary stands alone the roadside.
Helping hands are hired to get the stands set up quickly and attractively. Shop owners shout out their sales to attract customers, they can be heard amidst drilling and pounding.
Ordinary supermarkets compete hard with overflowing goods and price slashes.
Nian gao, year cake, is made of sticky rice flour. It has many variations, plain sweet, with dried fruits, bean paste, etc. Regardless which kind, it is a must-have, because the name, nian gao, has the same pronunciations as “year high”, eating which, ritual says, will bring you a step-up in life in the new year.
Gift giving is an art, a hunch, a 6th sense: not too much or too expensive to embarrass the recipient, for he/she has prepared something for you that could be of less value; not too little or too cheap to offend him/her, for he/she could feel that his/her worthiness to you is reduced by your show of appreciation. But nothing is worse than forgetting someone.
Well, even if you don’t want to make the New Year a big deal, you will, for the swirl around you is too strong.