Chinese New Year, Who wants to get Lucky!
I’m a little early with this topic, Chinese New Years falls on February 1st (Year of the tiger). However the Chinese take this celebration pretty seriously, and often begin preparations weeks in advance…food is a big thing! Lets begin with a little history, some highlights and of course the food!
Chinese New Year, Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. In Chinese culture and East Asian countries, the festival is commonly referred to as Spring Festival, as the spring season in the lunisolar calendar traditionally starts with lichun, the first of the twenty-four solar terms which the festival celebrates around the time of the Lunar New Year. Marking the end of winter and the beginning of the spring season, observances traditionally take place from New Year’s Eve, the evening preceding the first day of the year to the Lantern Festival, held on the 15th day of the year. The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February.
The Chinese New Year is associated with several myths and customs. The festival was traditionally a time to honor deities as well as ancestors. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the New Year vary widely, and the evening preceding the New Year’s Day is frequently regarded as an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly clean their house, in order to sweep away any ill fortune and to make way for incoming good luck. Another custom is the decoration of windows and doors with red paper-cuts and couplets. Popular themes among these paper-cuts and couplets include good fortune or happiness, wealth, and longevity. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. And of course the mythology has a big part, not unlike the western zodiac.
This year is the year of the Tiger, seems appropriate. I’m a Snake, how about you?
What does the Tiger mean?
The Chinese Zodiac dates back to the Qin Dynasty over 2000 years ago and is rooted in a system of zoolatry (or animal worship). As the legend goes, the Jade Emperor challenged all the animals in the Kingdom to a “Great Race.” Whoever arrived at his palace first would win his favor. The Tiger was sure that he had the race in the bag, but ended up placing third after the cunning Rat and workhorse Ox snuck in ahead of him. Thus, Tigers are extremely competitive people, known for their courage and ambition. Tigers are ambitious, but they’re also extremely generous with a drive to help others. Tigers want to win but they’re also always seeking justice.
TOP 9 FOODS OF THE CHINESE NEW YEAR
- Dumplings; a staple of Chinese cuisine, are associated with the wealthiness: according to tradition, the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebrations, the more money you can make in the New Year
- Spring rolls; refers specifically to eating this dish during the Lunar Year (also called the Spring Festival). There are no specific rules to follow when it comes to spring rolls, but it’s common to say the phrase “A ton of gold,“ referring to this dish as a carrier of prosperity.
- Nian gao; a traditional glutinous rice cake made of sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, dates, and lotus leaves. Eating Nian Gao is accompanied by the phrase “Getting higher year-after-year by year,” meaning a general improvement in life.
- Sweet Rice Balls; a staple of the Chinese celebrations: their rounded shape is associated with reunion and being together.
- Longevity Noodles; symbolize longevity: in fact, they are longer than normal noodles and uncut. The longer, the better.
- Fish; it’s usually steamed. Different types of fishes can be served, based on the family’s wishes.
- Steamed Chicken; another symbol of the family; that’s why, once cooked, Chinese people first offer the chicken to the ancestors asking for blessings and protection.
- Fruit and Vegetables; Vegetables play an important role in a Chinese dinner table, and each of them symbolizes something specific.
- Fa Gao; a typical Chinese dessert made with soaked rice that is then ground into a paste and steamed. Exactly like the Nin Gao, it is a wish for success.
Love all of these things, New Year or not! Without further hesitation, here is a recipe for Basic Chinese Dumplings.
Happy Chinese New Year in advance, I wish prosperity, love and happiness as this year unfolds! Check in with me on Friday for my next installment!