2011 is the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit and begins on the 3rd February 2011 – normally the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. This is when the Chinese calendar begins. Also named the ‘Lunar New Year’ and ‘Spring Festival’, Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in Chinese culture and is a time for families to get together and enjoy delicious feasts!
Red money packets (hong bao) containing an even amount of money is normally given by grown-ups and elders to immediate family – usually children and is a sign of good luck.
In Chinese society, the monetary value of the gift is very important and the giving of red money packets are socially acceptable because they allow the receiver to accurately measure the strength of their family relationships.
Food is an essential part of Chinese New Year, and is by the far the most exciting!
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are a time for families to get together and have a meal. The New Year’s Eve dinner is often very large and traditionally includes fish and chicken. However, the New Year’s Day dinner is typically vegetarian.
Some typical Chinese New Year dishes are:
Uncut noodles: Families may serve uncut noodles, which represent longevity and long life, though this practice is not limited to the new year.
Nian Gao: Most popular in eastern China because its pronunciation is a homophone for "a more prosperous year (年高 lit. year high)". Nian gao is also popular in the Philippines because of its large Chinese population and is known as "tikoy" there. Known as Chinese New Year pudding, nian gao is made up of glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, salt, water, and sugar. The colour of the sugar used determines the colour of the pudding (white or brown).
Fish: Is usually eaten or merely displayed on the eve of Chinese New Year. The pronunciation of fish (魚yú) makes it a homophone for "surpluses"(餘yú).
Buddha’s Delight: An elaborate vegetarian dish served by Chinese families on the eve and the first day of the New Year. A type of black hair-like algae, pronounced "fat choy" in Cantonese, is also featured in the dish for its name, which sounds like "prosperity".
Jao Gok: The main Chinese new year dumpling. It is believed to resemble ancient Chinese gold ingots.
Fa Gao: – Literally translated as "Prosperity Cake", fa gao is made with wheat flour, water, sugar and leavened with either yeast or baking powder. Fa gao batter is steamed until it rises and splits open at the top. The sound "fa" means either "to raise/generate" or "be prosperous", hence its well intending secondary meaning.
Yu Sheng: Raw fish salad. Eating this salad is said to bring good luck. This dish is usually eaten on the seventh day of the New Year, but may also be eaten throughout the period.
Red Jujubes: (also called "Chinese Dates") – symbol of prosperity
Turnip and Taro Cakes: A dish made of shredded Radish/Taro and rice flour, usually fried and cut into small squares.
Mandarins: are commonly eaten as they symbolise good fortune and wealth.
Bakkwa: Chinese salty-sweet dried meat, akin to jerky, which is trimmed of the fat, sliced, marinated and then smoked for later consumption or as a gift.
Sweets: Sweets and similar dried fruit goods are stored in a red or black Chinese candy box.
Jiao-Zi: (Dumplings): Eaten traditionally in northern China because the preparation is similar to packaging luck inside the dumpling, which is later eaten.
Melon Seed: Other variations include sunflower, pumpkin and other seeds and are a symbol of fertility.
The dragon dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture. Along with the lion dance, it is most often seen in festive celebrations.
In the dance, a team of dancers carry an image of the Chinese dragon on poles. The lead dancers lift, dip, thrust, and sweep the head, which may contain animated features controlled by a dancer and is sometimes rigged to belch smoke from pyrotechnic devices.
The dance team mimics the supposed movements of the river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner. The dragon’s fabric and bamboo body can be as long as tens of meters.
The dragon dance is a highlight of Chinese New Year celebrations held in China and in Chinatowns around the world. The costumes used in these celebrations are usually made in specialty craft shops in rural China and imported at considerable expense using funds raised through subscriptions and pledges by members of local cultural and business societies.
Firecrackers are lit in order to drive away evil spirits. Firecrackers are usually strung on a long fused string so it can be hung down. Each firecracker is rolled up in red papers, as red is auspicious, with gunpowder in its core. Once ignited, the firecracker lets out a loud popping noise and, as they are usually strung together by the hundreds, the firecrackers are known for their deafening explosions that are thought to scare away evil spirits.
The Lantern Festival is held on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese calendar. It is also known as the Little New Year since it marks the end of the series of celebrations starting from the Chinese New Year.
The Lantern Festival is a Buddhist holiday that is often compared to Halloween. As children go trick-or-treating at night on Halloween, during the Lantern Festival, children go out at night carrying bright lanterns. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, for only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones; in modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in shapes of animals.
You can find a huge range of Chinese decorations, lanterns and traditional ingredients at any of our branches so you can have a festive and prosperous Chinese New Year!
Gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái !
(Happy New Year, now give me a red envelope!)