February 2011 Archives
Chinese New Year is a magical time of year where gifts are exchanged, delicious food is served, beautiful decorations are put on display, and people travel many miles to be with one another. It is celebrated not only in China, but throughout many countries and China Towns across the world.
The specific date of Chinese New Year is determined partly by the lunar cycle, and usually ends up somewhere between Jan 21 and Feb 20. This year it will fall on February 3, and it is the year of the rabbit. People born under the rabbit are said to be cautious, wise, intuitive, fashion forward, peaceful, and always calm.
Food is a very important part of the holiday. People will travel far, sometimes across the world, to sit down and have New Year's Eve dinner with family members they haven't seen in a long time. Upon entering a house, people are often greeted with "Chi fan le mei you?" which translates to "Have you eaten yet?"
Most of the food items served are chosen because they're associated with positive sounding words or images. Fish is served because the word is a homophone for surplus. Dumplings are eaten because they're believed to resemble a type of old Chinese gold brick. Mandarin oranges are served because they are associated with luck. Long, uncut noodles are often eaten to represent a long, prosperous year. Glutinous rice cakes called "Nian Gao" are eaten to bring prosperity and success.
There are many other traditions of the New Year celebration. Some are outdated and purely regional while others are followed by everyone across the globe. Some people say to avoid using knives on New Year's Eve as it may sever a family's luck. Other people don't clean during the new year celebration because they may sweep away good fortune. Koi fish are considered good luck and an image of prosperity, so pictures of koi fish are displayed throughout many festivals. Red is considered a lucky color, and the festivals are usually covered in red lanterns, banners, and costumes because of this. Red envelopes are given to young, unmarried people, often with dollar amounts numbered in even numbers. Some do this under the belief that giving more envelopes will bring about better fortune for the new year.
Most importantly though, The Chinese New Year celebrates the same things that other cultures celebrate. A new beginning. A chance to end fueds, to rekindle old family ties and to hope for a better, more prosperous year.
So gather your loved ones this February, cook some great food with them, put on your best red outfit and get ready for a great year.