Inspiration for Chinese New Year

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Celebrate the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China it is known as the Spring festival marking the end of the winter season. The festival begins on the first day of the month and ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day.

Chinese New Years Eve is a day where families gather for their annual reunion dinner and is known as Chú Xī or “Eve of the Passing Year”. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year”

Within China, regional customs and traditions to celebrate the new year vary widely. People will spend lots of money on presents, decorations, food and clothing. It is also traditional that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper cuts (jian zhi) and couplets (Chinese poetry) with popular themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity.

On the Eve of Chinese New Year, dinner is a feast with families, food will include dishes with pork, duck, chicken, fish and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar year, so the date of Chinese New Year changes every year. The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. There are various stories which explain this. The simplest is that Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited all of the animals to join him for a New Year celebration, but only 12 animals turned up. To reward the animals that did come, Buddha named a year after each of them in the order that they arrived, starting with the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Sheep), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Depending on the year you are born, you are believed to have the various character traits of that year’s animal.

By the way, I’m not this knowledgeable about Chinese New Year! I got all the information from Wikipeadia and ChinaInteresting.com which you can read and find out more, if you are interested. ^_^

I live pretty close to London where Chinatown holds celebrations for the Chinese new year and I remember going there as a child with my parents and seeing the lion dances and trying the food. Great fun!

Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year in the Gregorian calendar, a date between January 21st and February 20th. This year it falls on January 23rd. 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, which just happens to be my birth year! For this reason, I’m planning on holding a ‘Year of the Dragon Dinner Party’ with Chinese new year decorations and food! I thought it would be fun, and you know me, any excuse to have a party!

I will actually be holding my dinner party on the 28th January, which is a Saturday – the 23rd is a Monday and with work commitments for my guests, every one will be clock watching knowing that they have to be up early the next day -__-

I’ve just mentioned this to my husband, and we’ll be heading into London next week to visit Chinatown for some inspiration and to buy some goodies for the party!

One thing I love about Far Eastern cultures is the symbolism of things. Wiki tells me that the following things are symbolic at Chinese New Year and are popular decorations. I’ll try and get as many as I can to decorate with!

Red is the predominant colour used in Chinese New Year celebrations. Red is the emblem of joy and symbolises virtue, truth and sincerity. The sound for the Chinese word for red is “hong” in Mandarin and “hoong” in Cantonese which also means prosperous. Therefore the colour red is both and auspicious colour with an auspicious sound.

With all the symbolism and decoration covered, it’s time for the food! But of course, my research teaches me that even the food has symbolism…here are some photos of Chinese food to give us inspiration on what to prepare for a Chinese banquet at home!

Noodles represent a long life; an old superstition says it is bad luck to cut them.

Spring rolls symbolise wealth because their shape is similar to gold bars.

A food may have special significance during Chinese New Year because of the way the Chinese word for it sounds. For example, the Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune, so it is very common to serve a lettuce wrap filled with other lucky food.

Tangerines and oranges are passed out freely during Chinese New Year as the words for tangerine and orange sound like luck and wealth, respectively.

Fish also play a large role in festive celebrations. The word for fish, “Yu,” sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. As a result, on New Year’s Eve it is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.

Cakes such as Sticky Rice Cake have symbolic significance on many levels. Their sweetness symbolizes a rich, sweet life, while the layers symbolize rising abundance for the coming year. Finally, the round shape signifies family reunion.

Dumpling symbolise family togetherness. They also represent wealth and prosperity because of their crescent shapes, which look like the ancient Chinese money. In preparing these goodies, a gold coin is placed inside one of the dumplings and whoever bites into it is considered lucky.

Wow, I never thought when I started typing this that I would actually go so deeply into the customs of the Chinese New Year, I figured I’d find some photos, put them up and post done…but in doing this post I’ve gained lots of knowledge about the Chinese New Year and been given lots of interesting ideas for decoration and foods.

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