How to Get Lucky on Chinese New Year!

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Friends, I have to be honest with you. My first experience celebrating Chinese New Year wasn’t totally a happy one for me.  

 

I was about 5 years old, and I remember being with my grandparents in NYC Chinatown and having a nice dinner. (So far so good…)

Then after dinner, I remember being in a store looking at the festive melamine plates and bamboo plants and all of the fun things you can find in Chinatown. Suddenly, I heard the loudest, scariest sounds!! I thought the world was ending! Alas, it was only celebratory fire crackers, but ai-ya (Chinese expression), so loud!! And then through the window, we could see big dragons and men banging gongs!

 

Fast forward a decade or several; I welcome Chinese New Year with excitement, though I’m still not a fan of loud noises!!

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What is Chinese New Year?

 

As with any ancient culture, the Chinese people observe the Chinese lunar calendar. Being a lunar calendar, the dates of a holiday change from year to year. However, the Chinese New Year is always celebrated between January 21th - February 20th. This year, Chinese New Year is celebrated on February 16th. That’s this Friday!!

 

I thought I would share with you some reasons why I’m no longer scared of Chinese New Year!

 

Symbolism

 

One of the things that I find so interesting about Chinese culture is their attention to symbolism. Many of the good luck symbols that are associated with Chinese new year have come to represent favorable things because of how the Chinese word sounds.

 

For example, you may know that oranges are a Chinese good luck symbol. If you’ve ever gone to a Chinese restaurant or business and seen an altar with incense sticks, you probably also saw oranges or tangerines there. The Chinese word for “orange” sounds like the word for “wealth” and that’s why this fruit is considered lucky.   

 

The number 8 is a lucky number due to the Chinese character for 8 rhyming with “fortune.”

 

Are you getting the picture? Here’s another case of number symbolism: the number 4 is considered a very unlucky number because it sounds very similar to the word for “death.” In fact, many elevators in China do not have a “fourth” floor!

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What are some lucky foods?

 

Now we are getting to the most fun part! Here are some Chinese foods that you’ll want to include in your Chinese New Year celebrations. I have put together a package for you that will show you all the steps you need to make your own Chinese feast at home.  If you're interested in recipes, shopping list and material list, plus a video, here you go! 

 

1. Dumplings. Let’s start with my favorite. What’s not to love about a little pocket of savory goodness that you can fry, steam or boil!  Dumplings are a big part of your Chinese New Year celebration because they were made to symbolize silver ingots (ingots are similar to gold bars because they can be used as a currency or made into other shapes). See, more dumplings, more wealth!!! No problem for me!!

 

2. Whole fish or chicken. Fish is considered to be a very lucky food, and considered a must for New Year celebrations. As with chickens or ducks or other such dishes, the fish should be served whole and unbroken to symbolize unity in the family. And, you won’t be surprised to know that the Chinese word for “fish” sounds like the word for “abundance.”

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3. Rice. is a must for all Chinese celebrations, and it’s no wonder because the Chinese word for “food” is “cooked rice.” Rice is considered to be a symbol of family harmony and togetherness. An expression of concern in Chinese is literally "have you eaten rice?"

 

4. Spring Rolls. These babies symbolize gold bars, and they are said to attract wealth. I’m sold. Pass me the spring rolls!

 

5. Noodles. There are other cultures that subscribe to the length of the noodle / length of life theory, and during Chinese New Year, the longer your noodle the better! See if you can try to eat at least one noodle without breaking it before it gets to your mouth!

 

Friends, you have just a little time before the Chinese New Year starts.  Take a look at the Guide to Your Chinese New Year Feast so you can prepare to celebrate with your family! Here is where you can sign up!

 

I wish you a lot of luck in this Year of the Dog!!