Happy Chinese New Year!




There are a number of reasons why February is my favorite month of the year and one of the reasons is due to the Chinese New Year! 
(Though I know sometimes it falls in January, depending on the new moon- this year the Chinese New Year is on the 16th February).

I have always been drawn to Chinese traditions and food! As a single mother, I always felt blessed as my daughter was growing up, by my beautiful statue of Quan Yin. I feel uncomfortable when a place has bad feng shui and I do try to apply it in my own environment; though I know I am not getting everything right, the parts that are, have such positive aspects and pave way for new opportunities. I also practice Tai Chi most mornings now and my favorite (and comfort) food is Chinese food! In the past, I'd even have dreams about Chinese traditions that I'd not even known about at the time.
It was only until my grandfather researched our family tree, that I found out that my great, great, great grandmother was Chinese and suddenly it all made sense.

So, as well appreciating the Gregorian New Year and obviously taking the Persian New Year seriously, as I am Iranian, I also count on the Chinese New Year. In some ways the traditions are different to the Persian New Year but in other ways, they are quite similar. They both use the lunar calendar and both New Years welcome in the Spring season. They both have certain traditions and superstitions as well, and no doubt the silk road would have influenced some. I will make sure I write about the Persian New Year when it arrivess in March. But for now, back to the Chinese New Year! 

Every Chinese Year is linked to an animal sign from the Chinese Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac consists of 12 different animals, including a dragon.

Last year was the year of the rooster, in this case, the 'fire' rooster, which usually means a lot of action, a lot of drama and a lot of productivity!
This year is the year of the 'earth' dog and a much kinder, more helpful and healthy year all in all. It can have elements of melancholy but mostly, it should be a time of looking after yourself and your family and helping make peace in this world and caring for the environment. It is said to be a good time to start your own business too although material possessions are not that important to the earth dog. Of course, if you are a dog yourself, you are not going to be as lucky; this is the case for any year that falls in your sign. The only silver lining I see here is that Donald Trump is a (fire) dog sign, so he may have a hard time! For the rest of the dogs, the Chinese would say just be more careful in general, wear plenty of red and carry jade to help counteract any possible bad luck.

Preparing for the Chinese New Year

No matter what year it is, preparing for the New Year from a few weeks before is a must. The home should be thoroughly cleaned; a proper spring clean! This includes clutter clearing (fixing broken objects or throwing them out if they can not be fixed and getting rid of anything that no longer serves you), pruning plants, mowing the lawn, cleaning windows and so on. Sweeping is very important too, out with the old, to bring in the new. Sweep the old, stagnant energy and bad luck out the door!

As you shouldn't use scissors on New Years day itself, do take this time to cut your hair and nails. It goes without saying that you need to look as well groomed and healthy as possible. This is also the time to buy some new items of clothing, shoes and accessories. Red is preferable as it is considered very lucky. If you do not want your entire wardrobe to be red, you can buy red bracelets and other accessories. People even buy and wear red underwear!

Make sure you settle your debts, return money, or anything else that you may have borrowed. It's also a good time to forgive people and reconnect with people that you may have had issues with. Just make sure you do this before the New Year and definitely not on the day itself or throughout the Spring Festival Season for that matter!

The Chinese decorate their homes with different things, one being Chunlian. These are red paper/banners,with poetic couplets written on them in beautiful calligraphy. These are to bring good luck, good health and prosperity for the New Year. I think most outdoor buildings and businesses put up these decorations, including gorgeous red lanterns from about a month before, but for your home, you are to get rid of and put the new Chunlians up, on New Years Eve.

*Picture from Business Insider

In the north, people also put up beautiful patterned paper cuttings on windows. These represent happiness for the coming year. Whereas, they no longer do this in the south and only save these for weddings. Instead, in Southern China, people display flowers such as daffodils and butterfly orchids. People also display a potted, fruit bearing golden kumquat tree which sounds just wonderful! 
Here is a blog post I found re lucky flowers & plants:
https://thesmoodiaries.com/chinese-new-year-series-need-go-flower-market-buy-nipple-fruit-tree/




Red and Gold dominate the decorations. 

Red represents happiness, good luck, joy, beauty, success and fortune. Red is about blooming, vitality and celebration! Red represents fire and summer. The reason brides wear red apart from the above is because it is known to be an auspicious color to ward off any evil.

Gold symbolises brightness, like rays of the sun, fortune, fulfillment and I've heard also purity. Of course it also represents wealth and prosperity!

Before the Reunion Dinner

As with any celebration and New Year, people will be out shopping and preparing for the festivities. People will buy and prepare Lai See (lucky money envelopes). These envelopes are red and the money inside should always be even numbers as odd numbers are associated with Bai Jin money given during funerals. A very lucky number is the number 8.
One should also have certain fruit and flowers - the fruits traditionally are oranges and tangerines (Gat/tangerine in Chinese sounds like 'luck') as these represent happiness. good luck and abundance, such as an abundant harvest. You can also add other round orange fruit such as plums and peaches. Round sweets are very popular too for making sure you have a sweet year!

The Reunion Dinner (Tuen Nin)

The reunion dinner is held on New Year's Eve and is the most important meal of the year. This is where families of several generations sit and enjoy a large, auspicious meal and time together. People also worship their Gods and ancestors at this time too.

This wonderful photograph is from Reuters/ China Daily

Lucky Foods

Just like the difference in decorating, some foods differ between Northern China and Southern China. For example, as far as snacks go, in the north, people will definitely be snacking on melon seeds, walnuts and peanuts, whilst people in the south will be snacking on green bean cakes and peach slices amongst other foods!

Here are some lucky foods that will be served at the table!

Dumplings - Dumplings represent wealth because they look like gold ingots which was a currency used from the Tang dynasty or tael. Dumplings also have fillings and some people actually fill one of the dumplings that they will be serving with a gold coin. So, whoever ends up with that dumpling will become even healthier!!

Fish - I am not certain about all the traditions that go with fish and it seems quite complicated! I have been told there are only certain types of catfish and carp that should be eaten and depending on which, there are different ways of eating them! However, I have seen recipes for bass and others so not sure, will have to keep asking until I am satisfied with the answer! Also how the fish are positioned is important. There is also a blessing ' ‘May you have surpluses and bountiful harvests every year.' that comes with it. In Southern China people only eat the middle of the fish on New Year's Eve and the head and tail the following day to represent completeness. Others just don't eat the entire fish and leave it at that. This is due to the Chinese saying 'May there be surpluses every year' which sounds like 'let there be fish every year' in Chinese pronunciation. This is a theme that you will see a lot of; how some things are counted lucky because they sound like other positive things. 


Spring rolls - Spring rolls get their name because, you guessed it, they were traditionally eaten during the spring festival. They are also lucky as they resemble gold bars, therefore they represent prosperity. 

Noodles - Longevity noodles symbolise happiness and longevity. They are made longer than normal noodles and never cut.

I also found the Chinese New Year salad fun and fascinating - and the more and higher you toss the salad the more luck that will come your way! Here is a link I found on it:
https://www.foodliteracycenter.org/recipe/tossing-good-luck-chinese-new-year-salad

At midnight

A lot of people will probably be watching The New Year's Gala up until then. All doors and windows should be opened to let in all the good luck and fire works will be displayed to mark and celebrate the New Year and to especially ward off any evil!


Things not to do on the Chinese New Year's Day 

Do not wear black or white (as these are recognised for mourning)
Do not cut anything, in fact just put those scissors away! Same goes for knives and needlework!
Do not eat porridge! (it's known as a poor man's food so you'll be poor for the entire year!)
Do not wash your hair or wash any clothes (They'll washes away your good luck!)
Do not have or offer pear!! (Pears and separation are both pronounced 'Li'' Apparently pears are also offered to ghosts)
Do not speak of anything bad or sad or negative (don't use words such as death for example - whatever word you use, will mean that is what your year will bring)
Do not sweep your floors (otherwise you are 'sweeping away your wealth, fortune and good luck)
Do not take the trash out for the same reason as sweeping the floors
Do not lend or borrow any money
Do not visit hospitals
Do not kill (Well, hopefully you wouldn't be doing this any other time of the year either! The killing includes animals and insects)
Do not take any medicines 
Do not eat meat for breakfast. It is disrespectful to the Buddhist Gods who do not believe in killing animals
Make sure your rice jar is full!

*If you're a married daughter, you shouldn't visit your parents house on New Years day otherwise it will bring your parents bad luck! However, it is fine to visit your parents on the second day :D.
  This post is in no way comprehensive. However, I hope you have enjoyed reading it; I certainly enjoyed researching and writing it!

*If you are by now craving some Chinese food, like I AM and in need of recommendations, my current top favorite London Chinese Restaurants are:

1. Royal China, Baker Street
2. Pearl Liang, Paddington
3. Green Cottage, Finchley Road.


Sshin-nyen kwhy-ler!




 




Latest Instagrams

© Deliciously Me. Design by Fearne.