This is the 3rd time in recent years that we have been the gracious recipients of a festive gift-box of 60 fresh eggs. But it’s probably the first time I have had the language skills to ask about the significance of the gift…and with any hope of understanding the reply.
Like Christmas or Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year is all about returning home for an annual family reunion and visiting close friends. Gift giving – especially food – is very much part of the ritual. That much I knew. In paying respects, the idea is to gift something the whole household uses everyday…so rice, flour, cooking oil, fruit & vegetables, beverages, snacks or sweets are always well received. Over the years, I had come to understand that instinctively, but a gift-box of 5-dozen eggs for the two of us always left me a little perplexed. So this time, when our friend presented me with an eggy gift-pack, I asked her to explain. Her answer was insightful.
In fact there is no significance in 5 dozen, the number ‘60’ or the eggs per se…as I had erroneously assumed. The gift-box too, is merely festive marketing that capitalises on an age-old custom. That is…it is considered humble and respectful to gift something small, inexpensive and practical, but to give it in a bountiful quantity. To be discreet, not ostentatious. That explained another occasion some time ago, when another friend arrived at home for dinner with 20 kilos of gift-boxed rice balanced in her bicycle basket. It’s the generosity of volume, not value. It’s the thoughtfulness of giving something everyday-useful that the entire household can share, rather than an expensive item that may never be used. Put another way, it’s a nice case of inexpensive wine, not a crystal decanter…and I get that!
In an age when our households are stuffed full of more things than we truly need or use, I have come to love this tradition of keeping it authentic, with simple gifts we can all eat, drink and share.
Meanwhile….anyone for a Stir-Fried Tomato & Eggs? 🍳