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Celebrate Chinese New Year!

Updated on February 6, 2009

Facts and foods of Chinese New Year



Happy Chinese New Year! According to the Chinese Lunar/Solar calendar, the New Year began Monday, January 26, 2009 and will end February 13, 2010. This is 4706 on the Chinese calendar, the year of the Ox. Next year will be the year of the Tiger and the following year will be the year of the Rabbit. The Chinese New Year celebration lasts 15 days and is filled with tradition, superstition, honor and ceremony.

The celebration begins on New Year’s Eve when all sweeping and cleaning is done. To clean or sweep during the celebration would clean and sweep away good fortune. After New Year’s Day, families sweep from the doorway toward the center of the room and place the sweepings in the corners of the room. To sweep out the door would be to sweep away a family member. Also, it is bad luck to step on any of the piles of sweepings in the corners.

To bring in the New Year, Chinese open all windows and doors at midnight and set off firecrackers. The firecrackers send out the old and welcome the new. The doors and windows are open to allow the years both easy escape and easy entrance. During the New Year Celebration, it is taboo to loan money, use foul language, tell death or ghost stories and to cry. All of these practices, as well as the clothing you wear during this time, (red is a good color), affect your fortune in the year to come. The idea is to surround oneself with luck, good fortune, good feelings and wealth during the celebration with the hope that it will last throughout the year. Each day of the celebration is associated with events handed down through tradition to ensure prosperity and the whole event climaxes on the fifteenth day with the Lantern Festival.

Food is very important to the celebration and in preparation for the year to come. On the first day of the celebration, they eat no meat for good luck. They eat a vegetarian dish called “Jai” containing many food items believed to have desirable qualities. The food is prepared the day before to avoid the use of knives and fire since both are bad luck on New Year’s Day. On the fifth day, Chinese eat “Jiaozi”, or dumplings to celebrate the birthday of the God of Wealth. All meals during the festival include foods with special properties such as Lotus seed to bring male offspring, Ginkgo nuts to represent silver ingots, Black Moss Seaweed for wealth, Dried Bean Curd for fulfillment and happiness, and Bamboo Shoots to wish for everything to be well. Fresh tofu is avoided because of its unlucky, white color that signifies death and misfortune. On the thirteenth day, a simple meal of Rice Congee or Choi Sum cleanses the system and on the fifteenth day, Dumpling Soup is the meal of choice.

Other popular foods are whole fish to represent togetherness and abundance, chicken for prosperity, (but it must be presented whole for “completeness”), Nian Gao rice pudding, Man Tou steamed wheat bread and meat dumplings. Also, long, uncut noodles bring long life and rice brings wealth and abundance. More food is consumed during the New Year’s Celebration than at any other time during the year.

This is just a brief, food-oriented primer on the subject of Chinese New Year to help non-Chinese appreciate and enjoy the celebration. Different sources list numerous variations and, as with most holidays around the world, people often choose their own ways to celebrate. Your own internet search of will uncover even more information on this fascinating event. Also, visit your favorite Chinese restaurant during the celebration to enjoy their special offerings and help their celebration. Chinese New Year is not just a marketing scheme to get people to visit Chinese restaurants. It is a time-honored tradition, even in America, with the distinct flavor of history.





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