Special Symbolism of the Chinese New Year Celebration
Why are peach blossoms and kumquat trees such a welcome gift at a Chinese new year celebration? And what is it about fish served whole, duck, spring rolls, noodles, and bamboo shoots that make them abundant features of the traditional new years meal?
From special foods, to particular flowers and lucky numbers, the traditional Chinese new year celebration includes a myriad of auspicious symbols for longevity, prosperity, fertility, and all manner of good fortune. Whether hosting a new years party or attending a celebration, you may want to keep these in mind as you offer your intention and good wishes for the year ahead to family and friends.
Kumquat tree in Cantonese is called Gam Gat Sue. The word Gam rhymes with the Cantonese word for gold, and the word Gat rhymes with the Cantonese word for luck. In Mandarin, kumquat is jin jiu meaning "golden orange" symbolizing gold or wealth.
My Seneca teens tried these little sweet/tart golden nuggets today in a seasonal fruit salad and loved them! Lucia loves them too. Strangely enough "little kids" like sour things so don't be afraid to introduce them into their diet and expand their palates and combat the sweet treat habit.
As the annual Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco approaches this weekend, keep in mind these other foods that can help assure your good fortune and health this year.
Chicken and fish symbolize happiness and prosperity - especially when served whole, symbolizing togetherness of the family
Oranges and tangerines represent wealth and good fortune because they are golden and because they are China's most plentiful fruit. Traditional etiquette includes bringing a bag of these fruits whenever visiting family or friends during the 2-week long new years celebration. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure.
Noodles represent longevity (therefore, they should never be cut!)
Duck symbolizes fidelity, while eggs signify fertility.
Clams and spring rolls both symbolize wealth; clams because of their resemblance to bouillon, and spring rolls because their shape is similar to gold bars.
The word for fish (魚yú) sounds like the word for abundance or surpluses "(餘yú). As a result, on New Year's Eve it is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.
Turnips are served because their name "cai tou" also means "good omen".
The word for bamboo shoots also sounds like the phrase for "wishing that everything will be well".
Meanwhile...... here is a nice recipe for the new year......
1 1/2 tsp chili oil
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1/2 x 2 inch strips
2 T hoisin 1 T oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 T cornstarch
2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice powder
1/2 C chicken broth
1 T rice wine vinegar
1. In a large wok or skillet, combine the chili oil and grated ginger. Sauté on medium heat for 1 minute until fragrant.
2. Add chicken strips. Cook until chicken becomes opaque.
3. In a separate bowl, combine oyster sauce, cornstarch, sugar , chicken broth and 5 spice powder to taste. Stir until thickened. Add to chicken then immediately add kumquats.
4. Add vinegar, turn down heat, cover pan and simmer 5 minutes until chicken is done and kumquats are limp.
5. If necessary add water by teaspoons to keep mixture from becoming so thick it sticks and burns.
6. Serve over rice or noodles and garnish with thinly sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds.