Amazing Recipes You Can Make for Chinese New Year, a great selection of appetizers, mains and desserts plus a few dim sum recipes for you to enjoy! I thought I would take this opportunity to write a few words about this wonderful celebration which nowadays takes place wherever there are Chinese people!
There's so much history, legend, myths, memories, and even recipes, all relating to the subject, you could write volumes on the topic, alas, we will cover some interesting stuff and give you a whistlestop tour of the hows, whys, and whens of Chinese New Year.
You may already know that the Chinese place a lot of 'meanings' to almost everything in life, and of course Chinese New Year is no exception. Let's start with the origins of this celebration;
What is Chinese New Year?
According to Chinese legend and myth, Chinese New Year began with a battle against a mythical beast, known as Nian.
Nian would come on the first day of Chinese New Year and pretty much cause devastation, eating crops, livestock, villagers, and in particular, children. So, to protect themselves, all the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the start of the New Year in a bid to feed the Nian, and stop it from eating everything else, such as the villagers.
It was also deduced that the Nian was afraid of the color red, as on occasion, the children were playing outside, wearing red clothing and the Nian was scared off upon seeing the colors. After that realization, the villagers decided to hang red lanterns and red scrolls from their doors and windows, and for extra scare tactics, they started fireworks (surprisingly, most even today are also red in color!) with loud bangs to scare off Nian. Suffice to say, Nian never visited the village again.
Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is the most important date in the Lunar calendar, and the most celebrated by the Chinese. The date varies from year to year, but is generally between January and February. This coming year, 2018, it will start on 16th February 2018,, New Year's Day will be on the 18th February 2018 and lasts for fifteen days. Each year is different and is named after an animal. So for 2018, we will be in the year of the Dog.
What happens for Chinese New Year?
Well, not that much has changed from the myth of Nian! For anyone who has experienced a Chinese New Year celebration, you will be only too aware that the color RED is everywhere!
You may also have seen a lion dance take place, and heard the firecrackers banging loudly into the smoke-filled sky.
Although there is not much information on Nian, it would appear that the beast has been made into a lion type creature with an extremely long body, depending on how many lion dancers there are!
The colors of the lions will vary, but you cannot miss hearing the loud bashing and clanging of the drums and brass instruments accompanying the lion dance, and of course, now we know it is to ward off Nian and stop it from eating all the villagers.
At the end of a lion dance, you will often see the lion being fed a lettuce, dangling from a long cane, again, this could be to represent the feeding of the Nian by the villagers all those years ago.
Today, Chinese New Year is really a huge event in the lives of Chinese people. Their customs vary a little from region to region, but the customs are all about saying goodbye to the old year and bringing in the new year.
What happens in the days up to Chinese New year?
Leading up to the Eve of Chinese New Year, it is customary to give your house a spring clean, and I mean a thorough cleansing! This is to sweep away any ill fortune and to open the way for incoming fortune.
All the brushes and brooms are then put away and not used until after the celebrations, for fear of sweeping away the new year, thus all cleaning has to be done before the end of the previous year.
Varying amounts of money will be spent on decorations, in the way of lanterns, scrolls, mainly with Chinese characters wishing health, happiness, long life, and good fortune, food, clothing (new clothing, particularly shoes are of significance, haircuts), and gifts, and red packets, or red envelopes, containing money.
Businesses are expected to pay off their 'old' debt and this even extends to debts of gratitude where gifts and rice can often be given in business for the start of the coming year.
On the Eve of Chinese New Year, it is customary for a huge family gathering to take place, and of course, when you combine Chinese people in any numbers, there will always be food involved!
What do you eat to celebrate Chinese New Year?
There are some special dishes that have strong meaning to the celebrations, for example, Buddha's Delight is a vegetarian dish and its ingredients vary hugely throughout Southeast Asia.
It is traditionally served in Chinese households on the first day of the Chinese New Year, originating from the old Buddhist practice that one should maintain a vegetarian diet in the first five days of the new year, as a form of self-purification.
Each ingredient of the dish is ascribed a particular auspicious meaning. Below, we've added some lovely vegetarian recipes which you can try.
In northern China, it is also customary to make dumplings after dinner to eat around midnight. Dumplings have a symbolic meaning; wealth because their shape resembles ancient Chinese gold ingots.
By contrast, in the South, it is customary to make a Chinese New Year Cake, Nin Gao, which literally means "new year cake" with a homophonous meaning of "increasingly prosperous year in year out".
This cake undergoes a long steaming process and is then sliced into pieces, coated in beaten egg and fried. It's very sticky, chewy and delicious!
My love of Chinese New Year and its many fond memories come about from being born and raised in Hong Kong.
I remember all the relatives visiting our home and we theirs; sitting around an enormous round table in a noisy restaurant sharing a huge variety of delicious food, made special by the fact it would be 'Chinese New Year' food, so really, really special food!
The receiving of lucky red envelopes from my elders and feeling through the envelope the shape of the coin to guess how much was inside, eating 'Sugas' sweets and candied coconut ribbons, the 6 foot Cherry blossom tree we would have in our house…the memories are endless and lovely!
It really doesn't matter where in the world you live, memories never leave you, and you can always go on creating new memories every year!
Be sure to find out where your nearest Chinese New Year celebrations are and I can guarantee you will be making some wonderful memories too by going along to join in the celebrations!
So let's take a look at some of the lovely recipes we've selected for you to enjoy. We've added a variety from Lovefoodies as well as some of our blogger friends, so there'll be something for everyone! Please enjoy!
Lo Baak Gou, Chinese Turnip Cake - Lovefoodies
So Kung Hei Fat Choi to you all, and we wish you good health and prosperity!