Last night I was invited to 过年, or celebrate the Chinese New Year, with a family from Church. I took the bus over there and was met at the bus stop by the son. I was made to sit down while the parents finished making dinner, and then we gathered around the table for 团圆饭, or a family dinner.
In addition to the woman and her husband, we were joined by their son and one set of grandparents.
There were fried noodles, ridiculously huge shrimp, five-flavor meat, crab and some other mystery crustacean, an oyster-and-greens salad, gorgeous snap peas, black chicken leg in same soup, and a special Xiamen delicacy – jello worms.
Just to clarify, those are worms in gelatin, not fake worms made of gelatin.
Yes I ate it, and no I am not making this up. How could I? The most important meal of the year, and the local treat I’m served is a nasty variation of an already mediocre potluck dessert.
But really, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. How could it be? The gelatin was basically flavorless and the worms weren’t even rubbery or super-chewy like they would be if I had imagined it beforehand. That’s not to say it was good; it wasn’t, but I have definitely eaten worse.
After dinner, we took a ton of pictures – me with various combinations of them in front of every manifestation of the character 福 in the whole house, which is to say a lot.
They loaded up bags to send home with me – leftover dinner, oranges, candy – and fussed over my lingering cough. Moms are the same the world over, you know?
I was severely reprimanded for wearing too little, for going to bed too late, for getting sick in the first place, and then sent home (but not by myself, of course).
There were no buses running because of New Year’s Eve. My friend didn’t know this, so we stood at the bus stop in the cold and rain for at least 20 minutes before deciding to get a taxi. I could have been annoyed, but instead of I was comforted slightly by the fact that even Chinese people don’t completely understand how their country works.
So passed my first Chinese Chinese New Year. Everyone, 恭喜发财. . . 红包拿来! (Congratulations and prosperity . . . now give me a red envelope filled with money!)