Lunar New Year at Hsi Lai Temple

While Christmas, New Years on Jan 1st or even Halloween may be the favored holidays among many, I look forward to the Lunar New Year every year.  I was writing this past holiday season that somehow with age, I have lost that Christmas spirit which used to present itself as early as Thanksgiving.  Now I fight tooth and nail, worrying and wondering, why by the day before Christmas Eve, my spirit hasn't arrived yet. 

Perhaps it's because for me Chinese/Vietnamese New Year is truly about a new beginning. It's the time where no matter what disagreements are in the air, all the negative energy is transformed into positive hopes that the coming year well bring an abundance of good things.  During this time I'm incredibly superstitious and though some of the practices may seem silly or irrelevant, my thoughts are "Why risk having a bad year" over a few efforts that help put everyone in good behavior and spirits anyway.  My general rules for the first day include no eating meat, no wearing black, positive energy and no arguments (though somehow it's always bound to happen), NO cleaning or taking out the trash (this should have been done prior along with cutting hair), burning incense at an offering and most importantly being with loved ones. 

 I spent New Years even and New Years day this year in Los Angeles and Orange county because my dad came down from Canada to visit.  I haven't seen them or my cousins for a while, so it was nice to be able to catch up and share in on a festive time.  As how many families celebrate, my family puts a big weight on eating.  For Lunar New Year, the idea is to eat light, well and fresh to keep your body healthy and fed with good ingredients. 

On the actual New Years Day we visited Hsi Lai Temple, that on any regular day is an amazing sight, but on New Years is utterly breathtaking.  The temple sits on over 148 acres of land and is built with multiple levels, rooms and dedicated buildings which visually, are reminiscent of the forbidden city

The entire temple was decorated from courtyard to ceilings with lights, decorative, figures, artwork and signs wishing all a wonderful new year.  I was just sad that my camera died so all I was left with was my crappy Blackberry Camera.

I couldn't find pictures of this tree at night, but it's called the money tree or also called the wish tree.  At night the tree was brilliantly lit up in red and temple workers were selling coins attached to silk red ribbons with messages on them.  The wish ribbon I received to throw on the tree was to ward off woe and troubles for the next year.

Each area of the temple is like a walk through a dream like place because the decor, artwork and details were so immaculate and beautiful.  In the above garden, right beneath the flower arch is a bell.  Everyone was throwing coins, and the idea is if you hit the bell then you get a wish or blessing.  It was all in good spirits. 

In addition to the festivities, music, and beautiful sights, they also had vendors selling tasty treats.  My absolute favorite, which I bought more frozen ones of, were the steamed Taro buns.  I got the mushroom ones for home and lunch but man were the Taro ones good.  My cousins got a noodle soup, other desserts and of course a there were a variety of teas available.  I think I'm going to make it a tradition to go back every year for New Years.  Time flies so quick and the upside to seeing a year going by so fast is being able to anticipate seeing my favorite holidays and past times sooner.  The Lunar New Year is still going on, but the festivities have winded down a bit.  I'm going to head to the market this weekend to see if I can pick up some more good noms.

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