The Chinese lunar new year fell on February 10th this month – & for most Chinese people (born outside of China or no), this is a major holiday, in a sense, to spend time with their loved ones & partake in family traditions to welcome a new year. For those that may not know, this is now the year of the snake (one of the 12 animals of the zodiac). This would be my first new year away from Seattle. Luckily I have family in Northern California! After some deliberation, we decided to drive up to see my grandfather, mother (she flew in!) & the cohort of relatives – lots of cousins, aunts & uncles to visit with. Despite the all the time travelling (it was about an eight hour drive each way); it was a fantastic visit. A lot of traditions & new year’s feasting ensued.
A couple traditions that I like to partake in is cleaning the house before the new year (a very literal Chinese spring-cleaning, if you will) & hanging up new year decorations – in my case, it’s hanging a good fortune character (福 fú) on our front door. Its function is to usher in some good chi our way as well as give our apartment a festive touch!
Before trekking back to Southern California, one of my aunts gave me this treat! 粽 Zhong (spelling & dialect variations are jung, zongzi), a bamboo-leaf wrapped steamed glutinous rice cake filled with a savoury mung bean paste & usually salted pork belly – the origin of this particular variety is Vietnamese. As you can imagine, there are a plethora of regional variations of zhong. Out of the many festive food items, this would be one that I strongly associate with Chinese new year. One could eat it sliced & cold. Or heated up. But my favourite way to eat it is pan-seared & drizzled with honey! The contrasting textures of the crispy outside & the bamboo-leaf fragrant sticky glutinous rice.. in addition to the sweetness from the honey & the saltiness from the mung bean paste & pork. To me, it is reminiscent of maple syrup-drenched pancakes & bacon. Such a nostalgic treat.
The Chinese lunar new year festivities are generally celebrated for fifteen days – ending with the Lantern Festival. Judging from a lot of my friends’ facebook photos overseas – they are having a blast! & eating delicious sweet rice dumplings. (I am extremely jealous). Whether you celebrate the lunar new year, I wish your coming year to be full of good health, fortune & prosperity. 新年快樂 (xīnniánkuàilè), 萬事如意 (wànshìrúyì) !