With Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year and the Oscars happening all in the same week, I wanted to have a dinner party and celebrate one of them, but had a tough time deciding which way to go. Originally I was going to go with Mardi Gras, and even ordered all the decorations, but decided earlier in the week to go with Chinese New Year instead, for a variety of reasons. Although the official kick off was Sunday the 18th, the celebration lasts for two weeks.
This year is said to be the Year of the Golden Pig, which only happens once every 600 years. How can I not celebrate something that signifies wealth, prosperity and fortune? For decorations to get us the right vibe, I made a few stops.
First stop was an Asian grocery store, where I picked up a bunch of chopsticks for those adventurous enough to use them, some packages of honey nut and seed bars and a bag of shrimp chips. On the way out, I spied some free Asian newspapers, and grabbed a handful, using them as a makeshift tablecloth.
At a local party store, I picked up a bag of gold coins, Chinese New Year red and gold confetti, some Asian noisemakers and strings of lanterns. I ordered some Golden Pigs to give to guests, but they didn’t arrive yet, so they’ll serve as a nice reminder later in the week.
Earlier in the week, I received a package of chips from Kettle Chips. If you’re a chips or Kettle company fan, it’s actually a great deal. For $14.95, you get an assortment of five different unusual flavors, a chip clip, colorful postcards, drink recipes, pairing ideas and a wonderful dinner music CD. More importantly, one of the flavors included was Chinese 5 Spice Chips, which made a perfect snack for tonight before dinner with the Shrimp Chips.
And for dinner? I kept it super simple and ordered Chinese take-out. In Chinese culture, food plays a very important role, particularly for holidays, and different food signifies different attributes, so when ordering, I made sure to include as many of them as possible. “Lucky” foods are served through the two week Chinese New Year celebration, also called the Spring festival.
A few examples:
Bamboo shoots – wealth
Chicken – happiness, prosperity and marriage (especially when served with “dragon foods,” such as lobster. Family reunion (if served whole)
Eggs – fertility
Egg Rolls – wealth
Fish served whole – prosperity
Chinese garlic chives – everlasting, a long life
Noodles – A long life
Oranges – wealth
Peanuts – a long life
Tangerines – luck
Pork and beef – wealth and strength
Shrimp – happiness and good fortune
Sweet rice cake brings safety, good fortune, and a sweet New Year.
The year 2007 is the ‘Year of the Pig,’ based on the lunar calendar. But it is not just an ordinary pig, it is a ‘golden pig.’ According to some fortunetellers, it is going to be the ‘Year of the Golden Pig’ which comes every 600 years. They came to this conclusion through calculations, using a combination of the Chinese zodiac and the yin and yang theory.Babies born in the ‘year of the golden pig’ are believed to have good fortune and will lead a comfortable and wealthy life.
However, most fortunetellers and folklorists doubt the belief. According to a member of a fortunetellers’ association, they don’t know where the myth came from. It is only a saying among people and there are no grounds for it.
A folklore professor, Joo Young-ha, at the Academy of Korean Studies rebuts the theory. He explained that if the year 2007 is the golden pig year which comes every 600 years, there should be records about the special year written in the ‘Taejong Sillok,’ archives of King Taejong. King Taejong ruled the Joseon Dynasty 600 years ago. But there are no such records, which makes him believe the myth was made not long ago.
Some even believe the myth was created to boost the ever-decreasing birthrate in recent years. In fact, Korea’s birthrate is expected to increase this year. Many obstetrics and gynecology clinics are actually providing more pregnancy counseling these days.