On this day, every Chinese is believed to grow a year older. If you mark your days by the western calendar, you + 1 year which is calculated from conception as the first year of life. So, when speaking to a Chinese person and asked “how old are you?” they expect you to say one year older than you are. And, the Chinese favorite questions run in three….

How old are you?

How much money do you make?

Are you married?

If, so… how many children?

If not… Why are you are not married? (And then they say… Don’t you want to grow old with someone by your side?)

So, believe me when I write that on this particular day, if you meet Hong Kong Chinese older women for the first time at a celebration… Those questions will be asked. But prepare yourself… the taxi taking you there if it’s an older man will ask them first….. Seems to always be the first thought of Hong Kong Chinese……Even now, I smile with a quiet laughter when I get these questions after +30 years in the region, the questions never change. Not on Chinese New Year’s or other days…..

The seventh day is also the day marked for eating whole fish and noodles in certain communities who believe fish represents abundance and noodles longevity. In addition, farmers display their produce on this day and celebrate the day with a drink made of seven vegetables. For Buddhist Chinese, it is a non-meat day.

And, this is where in my writing, I want to show a similarity between the culture I was raised with and the culture I accepted in my adult life to be the one I was most intrigued with… The similarity between the Italians and the Chinese….. The number seven….

I don’t know what it is about the number  ‘ 7 ‘ but both the Chinese and the Italians use this number in some of their folklore and  recipes. I grew up with a Grandfather from Lake Como, Italy who was a vegetarian agnostic who only believed in worship of mother earth (his garden, his land in the wine country of Italy and California).  Papa’s Rusoni believed it was the green vegetables that would give him a long life. Therefore, his daily regime of worship, whether it was a holiday or a work day, was in retirement tending to his fruit trees and vegetable garden. Every night as a ritual he would be seen drinking a seven green vegetable soup, we children nicknamed “GIGEESOUP”.

A similar soup is made on the seventh day of Chinese New Years to symbolize good health and longevity.  I have always chuckled to myself about how similar customs and cultures are, whether they are practiced by individuals or in societies….. We praise the garden we work in or the spirit we believe in.  We thank earth and the heavens, in one symbolic gesture for each year of our life.  And, so as did my Papa Rusconi do the Chinese celebrate respectfully our existence.


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