Xiao Nian

Today it is 小年 xiao nian – the ‘little year’.  Xiao Nian falls seven days before the Chinese New Year, and marks the day when preparations should begin for the New Year.

Really, I should have gone out and started buying food, decorations and nibbly things to ready for the big event – but I didn’t.

Instead, we ate 饺子jiǎozi. Jiaozi is usually translated as ‘dumpling’ but that word kind of misses the mark. I mean, who translates ravioli or gnocchi as ‘dumpling’? It brings to mind soggy flour balls deep-fried in over-heated greasy oil.

Jiaozi are something different again – delicious little gems of fillings wrapped in rice-flour and steamed or boiled.

I should probably have lit incense to Zao Wang too – but I didn’t. The Kitchen God will have to have his fill of bribed sweets elsewhere. ( Traditionally, people left out ‘lollies’ – sweets or candy – for the Kitchen God so he would make a good report to the Jade Emperor.)

Since the Chinese New Year – or Spring Festival – is on the lunar calendar, the countdown is also on the lunar calendar, falling on the 23rd day of the last month of the old year. During the next few days, I am supposed to : get my hair cut, have a good spring clean and sweep out the house, buy some new clothes to celebrate the New Year – preferably red for good luck.

And buy lots of rice flour and vegetables and meat for making those yummy jiaozi.

This afternoon children in the school across the road danced with rainbow umbrellas to the tune of Mei Li Hua, and fireworks went off outside, getting ready for the big night, when fireworks will light up the sky from here to Shanghai.

Stay tuned.