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The clock has struck midnight, the New Year arrives with
a bang and many people in the West begin to get tucked
into glasses of champagne. The New Year in China begins
in a very different way, since champagne is not the
order of the day, but bowls of freshly steamed
or Jiaozi. These are served, freshly cooked, just after
the stroke of midnight and like the English tradition
of putting a sixpence in the Christmas pudding, a
coin is hidden in one of the dumplings. The person who
finds the coin is said to receive good luck over the
coming year and is regarded at that point as the
member of the family.
It's very difficult to say when the custom began and
every family has it's own collection of stories. Many
of them involve a poor family who find themselves
any food or fuel on New Year's Eve. Without food or
fuel, the family were too cold and too depressed to
go to sleep and sat there waiting to hear the drums
signal the start of the coming year.
The women of the
family were determined to keep their spirits up and the
began to joke with the old man of the family. They made
light of their lack of food and asked the
old man of the family, what he wanted to eat. The old
man, eager to join in the spirit of things, said that
he wanted dumplings made of gold, cooked over a fire
of gold bars. The women laughed, but the old man was
and told them to start preparing it and in order to keep
the game going, they went into the kitchen to see what
could be done.
They used the dust
that was left in the flour jar and dug
up a few frozen vegetables from the garden and managed
to make a few dumplings. With no fuel, they used the
wooden fence to make a small fire and once this had
been done, they went and told the old man that the meal
that he had ordered, would be served soon. Of course,
he was very surprised, especially when he saw the smoke
and went to fire to see what the women had prepared.
At this point in the
story, the god of wealth and he was touched by the
actions of the family and as a result, he decided to
play a little game on the family himself .
When the old man went
in to the kitchen, he couldn't believe his eyes, because
on top of the fire were some real gold bars and when he
looked into the pot, he noticed that some of the
dumplings were made of pure gold.
The family were the
talk of the village and everyone came to see the gold
and they were convinced that it was
the dumplings that the women had made which had produced
this incredible good fortune. As a result, many people
began to make these dumplings at New Year, in the hope
that it would encourage a visit from the god of wealth.
This led to the present custom of putting a coin inside,
since it ensured that at least one member of the family
would receive good luck.