Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Lunar New Year! Happy East Asian Spring Festival!
This year of 2018 is the Year of the Golden Dog, according to the Chinese Zodiac, which has a cycle of 12 different zodiac animals.
Celebrating the Lunar New Year the East Asian way involves making lots of noise with noisemakers, bells and firecrackers to chase away evil spirits, feasting with your family, and getting some money from the elder members of the family tree in celebratory red envelopes. Decorations are red and gold and lucky phrases are hung on walls and doorways next to paper lanterns to usher in good luck for the new year.
Also, spring cleaning? That's a Chinese tradition too. In East Asia you clean out every nook and cranny in your home so that you don't usher any bad vibes into your brand new promising year.
For those of us more interested in the food aspects of Chinese New Year, there are certain foods that are always served during the Lunar New Year holiday to usher in the new year with luck and prosperity. Here is a list of the foods we love for Chinese (Lunar) New Year that can easily be served allergy-free:
1. Longevity Noodles (Yi Mein) - in Chinese cuisine, extra long noodles are cooked especially so they do not break or get cut, to represent long life and health in the new year. Our favorite dish with long noodles is the Korean dish Chop Chae, which is sweet potato noodles with stir fry vegetables, but you can also have Japanese soba noodles or even ramen to represent this tradition.
2. Rice Cake Soup (Tteokguk) - this is one of Joy's favorite things to order when going out to Korean. Granted, it's usually cooked in beef broth but when made at home vegetable broth works just as well. The best part of this soup is the flat white oblong rice cakes that are a symbol of purity and cleanliness; having this soup to start out the year symbolizes inviting good fortune into this next year of your life.
3. Sweet Rice Cakes (Mochi) - these little sweets are the equivalent of cookies or cupcakes in Japan and Korea. Sticky rice flour dumplings sprinkled with powdered sugar and stuffed with sweet bean filling, these are a great dessert to usher in the new year! Having sweet rice cakes in the new year is akin to declaring your desire for a life full of sweetness (you know, all the good stuff).
4. Spring Rolls (Chun Juan) - the reason these vegetable stuffed rice flour rolls are called spring rolls in the first place is because it is traditional to serve them for the Spring Festival! These tasty wraps are eaten to celebrate the vegetables of spring and to usher in the spring season.
5. Dumplings (Jiaozi) - these vegetable stuffed savory treats are traditionally eaten to symbolize getting rich in the year ahead. They are called 'mandu' in Korean, 'gyoza' in Japanese and delicious by us.
In some traditional communities in East Asia the Lunar New Year is celebrated for 15 days! In more conventional areas the first three days are the most important but it's not uncommon for businesses, schools, banks and the like to all be closed for a week. So happy second day of the Lunar New Year! Go out and celebrate - do some lion dancing, light up some sparklers, chase away the evil spirits with noisemakers, and feast on long noodles, spring rolls and rice cakes!
Long life, good luck, prosperity and happiness to you for this new year of 2018 - for those following the Gregorian (solar) calendar and those on the lunar schedule!