My husband is half-Chinese, and our daughter was the first grandchild born into his side of the family so we were all very excited to celebrate Ella’s first Lunar New Year when she was not quite one year old. I didn’t know much about Chinese culture, but during my pregnancy I had looked at the characteristics of being born under the sign of the HORSE (which is also the Chinese zodiac sign we just came into this week for 2014). By New Year’s, Ella was eating solids, and her proud Grandma made an incredible feast of traditional Chinese dishes meant to bring us good luck and fortune in the new year. One of the dishes Grandma made that Ella could eat was NOODLES.
Long noodles [mee-yan]
Traditionally, long NOODLES symbolize longevity and are served uncut. If the NOODLES are cut, it symbolizes cutting your longevity short. Only I didn’t know that -all I knew was that mealtime usually meant me sitting next to the high chair helping Ella keep bite-sized foods on her tray and hopefully into her mouth. Uh-oh.
Ella was hungry by the time we arrived for our New Year’s dinner that night, and I had plunked her right into the high chair as Grandma brought her a dish of NOODLES to get started on. I reached across to start cutting Ella’s NOODLES and I heard a gutteral, “Nooooooooooo…. don’t cut the NOODLES!” as she spied me while heading back into the kitchen for more food. My husband chuckled at the puzzled look on my face, and I was informed about the symbolic nature of long NOODLES.
Oh dear. I had cut some of the NOODLES before she managed to eat any. I quickly scooped up the short NOODLES and replaced them with fresh, long ones. And against my better judgement and experience as a mother, I let Ella eat the rest of the long NOODLES, and she was in heaven! Anytime Mom lets food be fun is great, of course.
I sat nice and close to supervise the eating, and we giggled a lot together as she manoeuvered the long, slippery NOODLES. My husband took these photos to remind me of the time I almost blew Ella’s first Chinese New Years (there are some short noodles on her bib, but we picked up the rest and replaced them with ones that would ensure a long, healthy life)!
Somehow along the way, her nickname became NOODLE, and we still affectionately call her that today.
Oh, mealtime is always an adventure!
Here’s Ella today doing the ASL sign for NOODLES:
Happy Lunar New Year to your family from ours!