If you’re reading this you probably already know about Chinese New Year, so I won’t spoil the festive occasion with too much scholarly detail. 8 is the lucky number in China so here are 8 festive foods and 8 festive traditions for Spring Festival. Since CNY is as big as Christmas and China is vast, every region has its variation of customs. Having a northern mother and southern father, mine will be a mixture of northern and southern broadly speaking, leaning towards southern because that’s where I spent my childhood.
8 Festive Foods
Fish is considered a lucky food as the Chinese word for it 鱼 “yu” is homonymous with the word 余, meaning “surplus, plenty”.
The Cantonese think chicken a festive food, probably for its association to the phoenix, and for the red of cockerel’s crown.
The southern Chinese like to feast on pig trotters, for the idea of fortune coming “to hand”!
Northern families like to gather together and make Jiaozi, sneaking in nuts for the lucky dip. (here’s a recipe http://snowpavilion.co.uk/jiao-zi-a-spring-festival-recipe/)
Other lucky foods include lettuce, the Chinese word for which (生菜) isvirtually homonymous with 生财 “sheng cai”, to get wealthy.
Candied gourd, coconut and lotus root are a favourite of the Cantonese, who like to dye melon seeds red. Fruit and seeds symbolise harvest, fertility and plenty.
It looks like hair! Hence its name 发菜, again, virtually homonymous with 发财 “fa cai”, to get rich.
Dou Sha Jiao and Dan San are deep fried sweet dumpling and egg twist pastries, stored in large clay vats.
For those born in the year of the Snake, if you go to the Guangdong region during Spring Festival, people will make you drink snake wine and swallow the prized snake gall in it, no use trying to get out of this one!
8 Festive Traditions
团圆饭 (“Tuan Yuan Fan”): the reunion family meal, pretty much universal.
拜年, (“Bai Nian”), new year wishes: usually consists of as many well-wishing four-character idioms and proverbs as one can think of.
逛花市 (“Guang Hua Shi”), take a stroll at the flower market: festive flora and fauna include chrysanthemums, gladioli, pussy willows, ginger flowers and kumquat trees. Haggling is a must!
穿新衣 (“Chuan Xin Yi”), wear new clothes: for a new beginning and new luck, red garments are the best.
利事 (“Li Shi”): red paper packets of money gifted to unmarried young people on New Year’s Day, but you must “Bai Nian” first!
舞狮子 (“Wu Shi Zi”), lion dance: seen this at your local Chinatown? Lucky lettuces are gifted to thank the lions for bringing luck.
舞龙 (“Wu Long”), dragon dance: lion dances are more popular, you only really need three performers, but you need more space to keep a dragon!
元宵节 (“Yuan Xiao Jie”), Lantern Festival: finish off by celebrating the first full moon of the year, with lanterns and Tang Yuan (sweet glutinous rice dumplings in soup).
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