Ecocentric | Happy Chinese Lunar New Year – Share a Vegetarian Hotpot!

By Weiling Fu | 02.18.2015 |

Editor’s note: This post comes from Weiling Fu, our lead web designer at GRACE. Weiling is originally from Taiwan and now lives in Brooklyn, where she hosts a great annual New Year’s party. This year, however, she’s in Taiwan, celebrating with her family, so we are especially glad to share her post and recipes.

Gong Xi Fa Zai! This zodiac year will be the year of Goat. The Year of the Goat starts Feb. 19, 2015 (the Lunar New Year) and lasts to Feb. 7, 2016. There are a series of cultural activities welcoming the Lunar New Year beginning approximately ten days prior. Many of these celebratory events are tied to cooking, eating and the social gatherings of family, friends and business associates. It starts with the ceremony of “Song Shen” (送神), the sending off of the Stove God back to heaven. After sending off Song Shen, and many other family ghosts of various significance, back to heaven, the family commences a thorough cleaning of the house and, most importantly, the household’s family ancestral altar called “Ching Chen” (清塵). This cleansing of both the visible and invisible of one’s environment symbolically begins the new year with a clean slate, devoid of any of the previous years leftover detritus.

Though each region and community may have their own unique twist on the Lunar New Year festivities, they all have one thing in common: the importance of food. The various styles, flavors, ingredients, even colors and textures, all play important symbolic rolls in the ringing in of good fortune, luck, longevity and happiness for the New Year. Foods such as the New Year Rice Cakes (年糕) are prepared and consumed because the pronunciation of rice cake in Mandarin sounds similar to the phrase: yearly progress. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are used similarly. The pronounciation of Spinach sounds like expansion. The sound of the word pineapple brings to mind “burning strong.” Shape is important as well. Long noodles equal longevity of life. The circular round shape of the sesame ball dessert represents centerdness and balance, and its sweet flavor is believed to bring a sweetness to the New Year. Its red color is symbolic too, red being the color of good luck in Chinese culture, obviously it is meant to bring good luck.

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