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Chinese New Year tradition comes to Crossroads (w/video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Jan. 30, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 29, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.

Lily Mo, 49, of Victoria, left, and Anita Sham make dumplings at Mo's home in Victoria. Dumplings are one of the traditional dishes they prepare for Chinese New Year.

Symbolic meal

Each dish has a special meaning for Chinese New Year.

• Fish: prosperity

• Chicken: savings, wealth

• Rice cake: achievement

• Mustard greens: long life

• Dumplings: rich, money

• Tangerines: luck

Source: Victoria Chinese Christian Fellowship

IF YOU GO

• WHAT: Chinese New Year party

• WHERE: Northside Baptist Church, 4100 N. Laurent St., Victoria

• WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

• FOR INFORMATION: Call 361-578-1568 or visit nbcvictoria.org.

It's time to ring in the new year. This time, it's the year of the horse.

According to the Chinese calendar, the new year begins Friday, but the date changes every year.

Stephanie Lu, a student of Chinese history, said the new year traditions started in ancient China when a new couple moved into an old Chinese town.

At the end of each year, a monster would come out and eat the children in the town, she said, and to protect themselves, the couple used red paint to decorate the outside of their home.

"They would light candles and use firecrackers to scare the monster," Lu said, which eventually morphed into the traditions of Chinese New Year.

The new year is a time to be with family, worship deities, honor ancestors and say goodbye to the old year, Charlene Hu said.

At the end of the old year, she said, the tradition calls for people to clean their homes from top to bottom and buy new clothes for a fresh start.

"You get rid of everything that is bad, and you start with new things," Hu said.

Lu, Hu and their friend Lily Mo are members of the Victoria Chinese Christian Fellowship at Northside Baptist Church. The group is putting on a public celebration Saturday to welcome the year of the horse.

The traditions they'll share at the celebration are important to the Chinese culture, Mo said.

She is one of four volunteers who teach the Chinese language and traditions to children at the church.

"When they grow up, they can gain some traditions for their families," Mo said.

She grew up in China and remembers learning how to roll the dough used for the dumplings by watching her mother. They're made from scratch then rolled out and sealed by hand. In an almost assembly-line fashion, she and other ladies in the fellowship will roll, stuff and steam the dumplings that will be served at the event.

"The shape looks like the old money in China," Mo said. "So it is supposed to bring fortune in the new year."

The group - mostly of Chinese and Taiwanese - is made up of about 30 members from Victoria. The group will bring traditional dishes to the church and decorate the space with colorful signs and symbols.

"The color red means fortune and good luck," Hu said.

To prepare for the new year, Hu said it's customary to host a big dinner on New Year's Eve, much like Thanksgiving. The dinner will include a spread of vegetables, fish, chicken and desserts. But unlike the Thanksgiving turkey, the whole fish and whole chicken symbolize things such as fullness, savings, wealth and achievement.

Saturday's event will include a dance performed by the students and a potluck meal.

Everyone is invited, Mo said about the party, and she hopes to share the tradition with new people.

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