Despite it being a Chinese festival rather than a religious one, there is still the elements of superstition and religion as well.
For instance, the most observe the practice of vegetarian consumption on the first day of Chinese New Year and they enjoy a huge feast on the 2nd day of CNY.
On the 4th day, the Taoists would prepare food for the gods and deities who would be visiting the Earth on that day.
The 6th day of CNY is also observed as the birth of the Snake deity/guardian.
The 7th day of CNY is the day of Humanity where everyone shares the same birthday on this day.
The Hokkien society, particularly look forward to the night of the 8th day as the eve of the Heavenly Jade Emperor on the 9th day of CNY; where they will be busy preparing the customary worship items and food for their respected Creator.
My grandmother used to busy herself along with my aunts for the preparations as well, as the Hokkiens really focus on this day as a victorious day for their clan.
The legend has it that the Hokkiens were at war with the Teochews then and they escaped by hiding in a nearby sugar cane plantation.
Now, as we have seen the plantation before, we would know that it is not hard to spot anyone in the spaces between the trees and yet the Hokkiens escaped.
On the day they finally came out of their hiding place, it coincided with the birthday of the Heavenly Jade Emperor.
Therefore, to the Hokkiens, the 9th Day is really their brand new Year/beginning and they celebrate by offering thanks to the Jade Emperor using the sugar cane.
As grandmother is getting old, the worship stuffs have decreased as well.
I never did associate the intent of worship with the generosity of offerings, as poor and rich alike, God do not judge us based on our spending or riches.
There are customary items of course; such as fruits and sugar cane, but the rest are entirely based on individual budget.
Prosperity rice cakes, also known as 'Huat Kueh' remained a favorite for deity worship and is never left out of the worship list.
Dyed red eggs; a typical symbol for birthdays
Ang Koo are also associated with longevity
Glutinous rice cakes
Meat, usually associated with celebration in the olden days as they are rare and dear in price and viewed as luxury food
I will be writing a more detailed posting on CNY food and customs in my other blog soon :-)