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Being a native New Yorker can mean one of two things if you have some sort of ethnic background other than American.
Either you are far out of touch with your own culture that you've adopted someone else's culture, or you've blended your own culture into the big melting pot that is America.
I am the later. Born and raised in New York City and ethnically Chinese, I've been wondering if I am more American than I am American Chinese. I've been back "home" to China four times in my life and I can speak the language properly, but at a low level, enough to have a conversation with someone without sounding too foreign. I don't have many Chinese friends, let alone Asian, since I grew up in Sunset Park, a predominately Hispanic neighborhood.
As a result, even though I attend most of my cultures events, I don't know how to perform them. At this point in my life, I felt it was important enough to learn all this from my parents and give a little insight to the traditions we have, and what better time to start with than the Lunar New Year Celebration?
The Lunar Calendar is extremely important since it is used exclusively to mark our holidays.
There are many complexities in how the calendar works and you can find a lot of information about it on the web by searching "Lunisolar Calendar"
Chinese New Year lands on February 11th 2013, on a New Moon ( that is there is no moon in the sky, opposite of a full moon).
Traditionally you celebrate the eve of the new year with a big dinner. The week of the new year is filled with traditional snacks, depending on where your family is from. Chinese New Year’s is the ONE holiday that most people will go back and visit their family for. It is the one holiday where it is very important to get everyone together and often people will save money to fly back wherever home is if they are able to.
My parents lived through communism in China and Mao Ze Dong's Great Leap Forward, which coincided with a generation of famine (or possibly caused a generation of famine). There were hardly any meat in the snacks so and so their adaptation to some traditional snacks ripples into my own life, thus most of these snacks that we make along the week are mostly vegetarian.
In fact, meat was so hard to come by during my parent’s time that at one point in my father’s life, he told me he had to cook a pig that died of disease or to simply not eat. The government would confiscation nearly every crop and redistribute it, so even grain and vegetables were scarce at some point.
So let’s begin with my FAVORITE snack.
Sticky Rice Sweet Pancakes!
Glutinous rice flour is mixed with boiled sweet potatoes and mashed into a uniform dough.