Chinese New Year: Year of the Ox
Each year, the New Year is honored with one of 12 animals. Legend has it that Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. This is the Year of the Ox.
You don't need to be in China to partake in Chinese New Year celebrations. To get into the spirit of the new year, try these customary traditions and foods. You have nothing to lose and only luck to gain.
Tips to celebrate Chinese New YearClean out the bad luck: A few days before the Chinese New Year celebration begins, clean your home. It is believed that cleaning will rid your home and yourself of the bad luck of the previous year, making your home open for the good luck of the coming year.
Gather on the eve: On Chinese New Year's Eve (February 6), gather your friends and family and have dinner together. Serve a meal of whole fish and spring rolls -- both symbolizing wealth, abundance, and prosperity for the coming year. Begin the countdown just before midnight and wish each other a happy new year!
Day 1: On the first day of the Chinese or lunar calendar it is taboo for the Chinese to eat meat. Refraining from meat is thought to bring long and happy lives. Instead of meat-based dishes, prepare lettuce wraps and stir-fry noodles, which signify good fortune and a long life. Eat the noodles whole because cutting them could mean your life will be cut short! This is also the day to show appreciation for the oldest members of your family – it's a good time to call you grandparents and tell them you value their wisdom.
Day 2: Give Fido an extra treat in his bowl today. The Chinese consider this day the birthday of all dogs. Have dinner with your parents and make a whole chicken, which is a representation of togetherness. However, don't give Fido a chicken bone because it can splinter and get stuck in his gums or throat.
Days 3 and 4: Eat tangerines and oranges on these days for good fortune and prosperity. It is bad luck to visit others on these two days so enjoy time with yourself – order your favorite take-out, relax, and do some introspection.
Day 5: Dumplings are the chow for the day. The round shape of the dumplings signifies family and wealth.
Day 6: Make (or order in) Peking duck. It is a symbol of loyalty and faithfulness.
Day 7: Celebrate your birthday today, no matter when it is…the best part is you won't be a year older. Eat sushi or cooked fish, both of which promote a long successful life.
Day 8: Bake or eat a sweet cake today, which means you will have a plentiful, sweet life as well as great abundance in the upcoming year. Today is a lucky day because eight is a traditional lucky number meaning fortune.
Day 9: It is a tradition to pay tribute to a cherished person and drink Chinese tea today.
Days 10, 11, and 12: The New Year is coming to a close so be sure to formulate your own resolutions for the coming year. Try to repay any debts or give back things that were lent to you, get your hair cut, or wear bright colors such as red. Your attitude and appearance during this time will pave the way for the tone of your whole year.
Day 13: To purify your body and soul, indulge in plenty of rice and greens such as collards, broccoli rabe, or mustard greens.
Day 14: Begin preparing for the Lantern Festival, which is the final night of the festivities. Make paper lanterns and string them up around your home as well as fresh flowers, plants, and candles.
Day 15: On the last day of the celebrations, have your relatives and friends over for a party. Serve a buffet of dumplings, whole fish, stir-fry noodles, lettuce wraps, pork, tangerines, and oranges. Leave time at the end of the day to reflect on the past and forthcoming years and how to best stick to your resolutions.
Next up...Chinese New Year recipes