Happy Chinese New Year! Today we are welcoming the year of the horse. All around the world, people are celebrating the start of a new lunar year. Chinese new year is a time to return home, to come together as family, and to share food. Accordingly, we’ve asked a few of our team members to share their Chinese New Year traditions and memories.
Before Chinese New Year, preparations for family visits and gatherings begin. Clothing for this special occasion must be very neat requiring a new and colorful outfit and new shoes. In a traditional Chinese family, usually the younger siblings will visit the elder ones. For the visit, a number of special foods are prepared for guests.
As a child, my favourite things were the many different kinds of food served during Chinese New Year. Guests are served a candy box filled with a variety of candy or homemade chips similar to the organic vegetable chips made with taro, potato, and yams that are popular today. Homemade sweet rice cakes in many different flavours, turnip cake, or fish rice cakes molded into the shape of a fish are served as well. And of course, glutinous rice balls with different filling are a must.
I enjoyed watching lion dances (舞狮 )and setting off firecrackers (爆竹) . Also, we went to the Chinese New Year night market (行花市), where traditionally people will buy and sell peach blossom(桃花) and Chinese New Year crafts.
Going back 20 years, Chinese New Year meant a lot of things, especially for kids: good food, new clothes, red pocket, fireworks, seeing relatives from afar, and in some part of China, It meant you were one year older – which is what most children are looking forward to.
I grew up in the country, one thing I was most excited about Chinese New Year was that some families would slaughter a pig right before the new year, and they would set up a huge pot, cook half of the pig together with a lot of potato noodles, pork intestines and dry vegetables. Half of the village would come out and share. My favorite part of this feast was to wait by the pot to taste the first bite of the blood sausage. Healthy? Probably not, but so yummy!
Today, material abundance has taken away most surprises that use to come only with Chinese New Year. Most people can have good food and new clothes pretty much anytime they want, even though the red pocket is getting ever fatter year by year, it can never bring the same excitement like it used to. Many cities have banned fireworks due to air pollution and safety concerns.
However, Chinese New Year is still the most important holiday in China. Many people are still making effort to reunite with their families by Dec 30th of the lunar calendar – even for many Chinese who are overseas — if you ever look at the flight fare to China in these season, you’ll know it’s true.
Chinese New Year is a fairly small event in my family. My extended family come together for a celebratory dinner. If we have any other relatives from abroad visiting us for new year, they join in on the celebrations as well. My grandma also used to make year cake (年糕) and turnip cake (蘿白糕) for my family.
As a child, Chinese New Year to me meant a lot of visiting with family and friends and getting to see a lot of my cousins that I didn’t get to see all the time. The season was filled with traditional foods which we were served at all of the homes that we went to visit. The platter of snacks was always full of different items. Some of my favorite items on the tray were the white rabbit candies, dried coconut flesh, and the watermelon seeds in their hulls. My family and I would spend hours sitting at the dinner table, hulling seeds and sharing stories from the day. Those were always great times.
Another very memorable activity was when all of my aunts and my grandmother came together to make Turnip Cake and Taro Cake. It was a flurry of action in the kitchen and everyone had their part in preparing the various ingredients that went into the dish. Everyone was responsible for chopping up an ingredient and once mixed together, it was steamed in a giant tower of steaming baskets. It was a very long day but the satisfaction of having made these dishes from scratch was well worth every effort.
Lastly, as any Chinese child will likely tell you, the red pockets were always a favorite. Visiting Aunties and Uncles always meant receiving a red envelope of money symbolizing luck for the upcoming year. I can only hope that these fond memories and traditions will be passed on to my children!
Celebrate at home!
Are you looking to celebrate the lunar new year? The foods eaten during Chinese New Year often have a symbolic meaning either through homonyms from its name or the appearance of the food. Spring rolls, for example, are commonly associated with this festive season. They represent wealth and prosperity in the new year. Once rolled and fried golden brown, they look similar to gold bars. Start your own Chinese New Year tradition by enjoying some spring rolls right at home.
Wishing you a great start to the lunar new year from all of us at Fine Choice Foods.