Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is as important to the Eastern world as New Year’s Eve on December 31st is to the Western world. We all enjoy the feeling of renewal that a brand new year brings, shrugging off the “old you” of last year and preparing for a fresh new year with new possibilities and adventures.
The celebrations for this Chinese holiday truly stem from myth and legend. It is said that a very long time ago, a wild beast called Nian (the Chinese word for “year”) appeared to attack and kill villagers on the last day of every year. The villages responded by throwing huge parties with fireworks and lanterns to scare the beast off. The noise and lights continue today, with fireworks displays, dragon dances, and beautiful lanterns adorning huge celebrations worldwide. Vibrant red and gold are the primary colors for this celebration, and they are both prominently featured in the festive lanterns, other decorations, gifts given, and foods created.
This year Chinese New Year’s Day falls on Sunday, January 22nd, 2023, and the celebrations will continue for 15 days, officially ending on the day of the Lantern Festival on February 5th. The Chinese zodiac determines each New Year, and this year will celebrate the year of the rabbit. The celebration is a time to reflect, spend quality time with loved ones, and prepare for the New Year ahead. Traditionally, red envelopes filled with money (called “hong bao”) are given to children as gifts. The color red denotes good fortune as well as happiness and abundance, which is why the color is prominent in many Chinese celebrations.
New Year’s Eve dinner is one of the most essential big family meals of the year, and the entire family is expected to gather and feast! Dishes are served in even numbers and specifically in pairs for good luck. Luck is a central theme to the celebrations and selected foods; however, some are served simply because of tradition. On top of luck, the dishes served typically signify wholeness, prosperity, wealth, health, and longevity for the New Year.
Food such as:
- Whole chicken
- Whole duck
- Steamed fish
- Pork dishes
- Spring rolls
- Sticky rice cakes
- Glutinous rice cakes
- Spring pancakes
- Cured meats
- Sugar melon
- Almond cookies
- Moon cakes
- Lychee coconut jelly
- Candy (creamy candy, lucky red candy, and more)
- A variety of soups (black sesame rice ball soup, won ton soup, sweet rice-wine soup, and more)
- And so much more
However, no food is as iconic for Chinese New Year as the dumpling is. The custom of eating dumplings on the first day of the lunar New Year is a bit different from other holidays where dumplings are served. Why? For this celebration the dumplings are supposed to be wrapped the night before and consumed at midnight on New Year’s Day. Sometimes peanuts, coins, or other trinkets will be folded into some of the dumplings, and it is said that whoever eats them will have exceptional luck throughout the year.
What is the year of the rabbit?
Before we conclude this article we have to touch on the year of the rabbit. The Chinese zodiac includes 12 different animals and the rabbit represents kindness, strength, and courage. Those born in the years 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, and those born in 2023 are all rabbits and it is said those born under this sign are very goal-driven, careful with their moves, elegant, kind, and quite social.
Hopefully, this year of the rabbit reflects the traits of those born under this animal – kindness, courage, and peace. Happy New Year and happy year of the rabbit!
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? Have you eaten any of these traditional foods? What are your thoughts on dumplings? Let us know in the comments!