Kung Hee Fat Choy: Happy Lunar New Year

New Year's good luck charmGau: new year's cake

Tomorrow officially begins the new lunar year, 4706 — The Year of the Rat. Here on Oahu the festivities began early in January, and culminated publicly over the weekend with three days of partying in Honolulu’s Chinatown. We caught the tail-end of the parade and the beginning of the street party on Saturday. We must have have missed the firecrackers, or perhaps there was a rain delay because it was quite wet in town all weekend. Despite the weather, hundreds of brave folks lined Hotel Street to watch the parade and stroll along the fest tents on Nu’uanu Street to sample fresh-cooked meat skewers, noodles, jai (also called monk’s food, a vegetarian rice meal filled with good luck symbolism), fried rice, plate lunches, dim sum, and the hot fried-food-of-the-night — “jin doi,” crispy, hollow sesame-covered rice balls with a smear of sweet bean paste inside (far right photo below). Dad was looking for a remembered treat from Manila that he called “tikoy” — turned out to be Gau (photo above), the super sticky brown-sugar and rice-flour “cake” that is available all over Chinatown and much of Oahu this time of year. For such simple ingredients, it’s quite an addictive treat.

Hotel Street after the paradeMaunakea Marketplace CourtyardVendors preparing fresh jin doi

We only caught the last 2 entries in the parade, including this gaily decorated, if slightly water-logged, lion and his stalwart handlers.

The last lion wneds his way down the damp parade routeLion pauses for a feeding during the parade

After the parade, the lions go their separate ways to visit shops and other businesses in the area. People vie to “feed” the lions since doing so will bring good luck for the coming year. Many folks try to entice their youngsters to bring their “food” to the lions, but with their energetic dancing, and flashing bright eyes, the lions could be a bit intimidating for the little ones, too. First-timers are often carried by their parents. After receiving their monetary meal, the lions often bow in front of the donor and sometimes wag their tails!

A lion approachesLion awaits its feedingLion bows its appreciation to its youngest benefactor

Dad made his offerings to one of the lions — one for Nikko, one for Kenji, and one Masato. I couldn’t catch them both still, one was always in motion (Dad moves fast for a senior citizen!).

Dad and the Red LionThe Lion gets a second

More about Honolulu’s Chinatown:
Part I: Come see what you’ve been missing
Part II: Best buys