Grandma Han Yang's Lunar New Year Celebrations in Hongmaogang／阿嬤們的高雄新年 韓楊清水─找不到路回去的紅毛港新年
Grandma Han Yang's Lunar New Year Celebrations in Hongmaogang
◎English translation: Hou Ya-ting ◎Photo by Shih Cian-you
Born in 1937, Grandma Han Yang Cing Shuei grew up in Hongmaogang, located in Kaohsiung's Hisogang District. Due to the Port Expansion Project of 2007, her home had to be relocated. She still hasn't come to terms with the fact that Hongmaogang, as she knew it, no longer exists. Since the completion of the project, she has been back once and found that things were just not the same. Perhaps, because of the struggles the people had to overcome, she still feels a strong bond with her previous home. Grandma Han shares what life was like growing up in the village and how it had its own particular culture, especially with regards to Lunar New Year.
Hongmaogang is surrounded by sea. When Grandma Han Yang was young, Siaogang District was famous for its duck farms. Grandma Han Yang says she would wait for the tides and gather the duck eggs that had washed up on the shore and simply pick them up, as if they were a gift from ocean. "That was how my family got their eggs," says Grandma Han Yang with a chuckle.
Grandma Han Yang grew up during the Second World War. "These years," she explains, "were difficult and full of suffering." The Japanese government would purchase crops, fish and poultry for a very low price from the residents of Hongmaogang. However, if residents attempted to conceal goods, they would be hauled off to the police station and severely beaten. Under these circumstances, residents of Hongmaogang weren't able to provide a proper Lunar New Year feast for their families. However, Grandma Han Yang always found a way to conceal food from the Japanese colonial government.
The Japanese government also forced residents to pay high prices for rationed goods. One of the most rationed items was pork. Pigs were monitored and collected by the government, so the only pork the family could access was by secretly butchering sick pigs. Afterwards, residents would slice the pork thinly, salt it, store it in pottery jars and bury them along the coast, where the Japanese government would not find it.
Lunar New Year was premium fishing season. Most of the fishermen had to work during the holidays so they would usually be out on voyages that would last up to twenty days. Even then, the men would only come home for a few days at a time. However, if the fishermen's ship had the right timing and they were home close to Lunar New Year, the fishermen would be able to stay for a couple of extra days in order to celebrate with their families.
In Hongmaogang, Grandma Han Yan recalls, Lunar New Year would end after the first day. The meal would simply include Rice cakes and Jhongzih (sticky-rice dumpling). Before the holiday, her family would busy themselves with preparations and organize the offering table, in order to worship the ancestors and Matsu, the goddess who is believed to be the guardian of fishermen. During the holidays, the grown-ups would prepare to return to work while the kids would mend the fishing nets. Most people who lived in Hongmaogang married locals, so wives' didn't need to travel very far to visit their mothers on Daughters' Day. Due to the difficult life of the fishermen, they rarely married girls from outside the region. Despite the hard times, Grandma Han Yan maintained the traditions of visiting her mother on the second day and receiving red envelops from her.