Celebrating Chinese New Year

by Cate on February 25, 2007

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.

Until tomorrow…

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire February 25, 2007 at 4:02 am

Sounds like fun! I haven’t looked yet, but I’m going to check out the Kettle offer…my dad likes to sample different kinds of chips…maybe that could be a birthday happy for him! He finally turned as old as his dad was when HE was born…53. He said he can’t imagine having a baby right now! :-)

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Lydia February 25, 2007 at 1:29 pm

What a great idea for a party!

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Tracy February 26, 2007 at 1:37 am

What a cool idea for a dinner party! I sure wish I lived near you and could come to a dinner party at your house!

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Cate February 26, 2007 at 2:02 am

Claire – it’s a great deal. Haven’t tried the other flavors yet, but will this week. The Aztec Chocolate certainly sounds intriguing. As for having a baby at 53, I’m with your dad. I can barely keep up with Nicholas sometimes, and I’m only 36! 53 would definitely be pushing it. :)

Lydia and Tracy – it was definitely fun. I like having off-the-beaten-path type get-togethers. There’s still time to squeeze yours in! ;)

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FJK February 28, 2007 at 7:16 pm

I’ve hosted a Lunar New Year potluck for years, timed to watch the SF parade.

This year we are invited to a banquet in Chinatown, so I’m taking a pass.

Here are just a few of my ideas:
I copy dragons or other Asian theme pages for the kids to color

I also keep “trainer” chopsticks on hand for them to use — you can buy some that are basically U-shaped or take some plastic tubing and make them yourself with regular chopsticks.

This gives me an idea for a post. Check my blog and I’ll put up a recipe for my easy Lychee Sorbet in the next couple of days.

In terms of entertaining, it is nice the celebration lasts a bit, gives you more chance to party (like a pig?)

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FJK March 3, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Hi
Finally got that lychee sorbet post up. If you want to try it out (it is super easy even if you don’t have an ice cream maker), please ck out my post here:
http://clickblogappetit.blogspot.com/2007/03/kung-hay-fat-choy-lychee-sorbet-for.html

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