Thursday, January 30, 2014

新年快乐! 恭喜发财! Happy Chinese New Year!! Happiness and Prosperity!

Although it technically starts tomorrow, the new year of the Chinese calendar - The Year of the Horse - has already begun in the far East!  The Horse year is apparently a good one.  If you are born in the year of the horse there are strengths and weaknesses. They can be clever and kind to others but also impatient, hot-blooded and rarely listen to advice. Sounds a little bit like a horse!  To celebrate the New Year one of our Chinese colleagues brought in a treat from the Vienna Bakery. This was a very nice looking cake with a Happy New Year greeting on the top. She wanted it to read "Happy Chinese New Year" but was told there would not be enough room.
They usually have something good...
Couldn't fit the word Chinese in!

A lemon cream cake - something different!
Helping us all celebrate Chinese New Year!
This was a white chocolate lemon cake with a whipped cream frosting.  The Vienna always does a nice job and although we have had many of their creations we had not seen this before. It was a four layer white cake with lemon icing in between - a little like your get with lemon meringue pie.  The side was frosted with a light whipped cream and on top there was a layer of lemon icing with rafts of white chocolate.
Always a favorite - whipped cream frosting!

Multiple layers with lemon icing in between!

This was a nice combo and proved to be very popular.  The cake was fresh and because of the lemon those who are not into sweet cakes were very happy. There is usually a little something left over but as you can see this cake didn't last.  This was partly because a lot of our Chinese colleagues joined in.
Down to the last two pieces!
We made short work of that!
We learned a little about what to say. We have heard the expression 恭喜发财 or Gōngxǐ fācái quite a bit.  However this is apparently a Cantonese expression that is used, ostensibly originating in the business community, to wish for a prosperous new year.  The regular Mandarin greeting is 新年快乐 or Xīnnián kuàilè which tranlsates to New Year's happiness!

Happy New Year!  I got the last piece!
We also learned about some of the traits that going along with being born in a particular animal year. Sheep are gentle, monkeys are quick witted, roosters are loyal and pigs are gallant - so too shall the people be that are born in those particular years. Now you understand why the animal/year associations are often referred to as the Chinese zodiac. In the West it is monthly, in the East yearly!
It's the Year of the Horse!

The story of a monkey king and some association with Bhudda also was told. This sounded a little odd but sure enough it is the legend of Sun Wukong aka the Monkey King, according to Wikipedia -
"a monkey born from a stone who acquires supernatural powers through Taoist practices. After rebelling against heaven and being imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha, he later accompanies the monk Xuanzang on a journey to retrieve Buddhist sutras from India." Check out he Wiki page for more info about "One of the most enduring Chinese literary characters, Sun Wukong has a varied background and colorful cultural history."!!
Telling us all the story of the monkey king!

And this is the monkey king!
There was another story about a character who is a handsome man in heaven but a pig when he is down on earth.  Hmm, that could be any football fan preparing for this weekend's Super Bowl. The character, who cavorted with the Monkey King is Zhu Bajie. He also can be found on Wikipedia.
This guy got in trouble for sexually harassing the Goddess of the Moon and in any case, he was exiled from Heaven and sent to be reincarnated on Earth, where by mishap he fell into a pig well and ended up being reborn as a man-eating pig-monster!  Early Chinese literature was quite imaginative!! 
Man-eating pig monster!
And that's the end of the story!

Discussing the similarities of Chinese and Korean new year while eating cake!
Wearing red for prosperity!
Xīnnián kuàilè and Gōngxǐ fācái everybody!

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