Today marks the start of the Year of the Metal Ox and the beginning of the Spring Festival! 🎊 It's also one of my favorite holidays and I have my late grandfather, Pete, to thank. He was particularly fond of Asian culture and absolutely loved Chinese cuisine. We'd head to LA’s Chinatown to eat the best Chinese food and enjoy all of the wonderful festivals for the Lunar New Year.
Typical Chinese New Year foods are a mixture of tradition, superstition, and edible puns. Each dish carries symbolic meaning, and they are eaten with the hopes of increasing the family’s fortune, health, and prosperity. Here’s what I’ll be ordering tonight:
Dumplings - to represent wealth and good fortune
Longevity noodles - essential! Eating noodles represents hope for long life, and the longer the noodles are, the luckier. Don’t cut yours short.
Fish - eating fish symbolizes wealth and a whole fish represents family unity.
Pork - symbolizes strength, wealth, and abundance!
Nian gao - New Year cake made of sticky rice that’s delicious
Tang yuan - dessert of sticky rice balls that represent family unity and togetherness
As you can tell, getting richer is a core theme, and what better way than with red envelopes! 🧧 Traditionally, giving a red packet is a way to share your blessings. Something I learned over the years was that the popularity of exchanging red envelopes actually became the underlying foundation for WeChat’s payment service, WePay. This is an older story that recounts how exchanging “digital” red packets began and the power of social payments. It’s one of my favorites that I refer back to often - Fast Company - How WeChat Became China’s App For Everything.
Red is China's good luck color, believed to scare away spirits of bad fortune. Avoid wearing black or white, as it’s associated with death and mourning. Also, don’t cut your hair and hold off from washing it because otherwise - you might wash your fortune and blessings away! We can't have that!
This is the Year of the Metal Ox, the second animal of the Chinese zodiac and the symbol of diligence, persistence, and honesty. The Ox is known for its strength of mind, body, and spirit and is beloved as the hardest working animal. If you were born in 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, or 2009 then you’re the year of the Ox!
My favorite party trick is telling people their Chinese zodiac, but if you don’t know yours - here’s a helpful link. Ox, Tiger, Rat? What are all of these animals, Sarah? It’s the stuff of legends, but here’s the story:
According to Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor invited all of the animals in the Kingdom to cross the river and come to his birthday to discuss the creation of the zodiac. The first 12 animals to arrive were promised to be honored with a coveted place on the wheel.
The cat and rat made a pact to go together, taking a lift on the back of a lumbering ox. Right before making it to shore, the rat pushed the cat into the water and leaped off the ox making him the winner of the Great Race. This is why the cat does not appear and is, reportedly, also why cats have hated rodents ever since.
The ox arrived second, followed by the tiger and a rabbit, hopping across on a log, the rabbit’s passage was eased thanks to a gust of windblown by a dragon, who secured fifth place as compensation for this act of generosity.
A snake startled a horse to beat it into sixth before a goat, monkey, and rooster arrived by raft. The penultimate arrival was the dog, who should have been a natural swimmer, but spent too long bathing in the cool water. The pig came last, arriving late as a result of his natural slothfulness, having stopped to eat along the way and rest.
The rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig are the 12 animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. You are said to have the traits of the animal for the year that you were born and I know that rings true since I definitely embody that Fire Tiger spirit! 🔥🐯
If this is your first time celebrating the Lunar New Year, I hope this serves as a helpful guide! Sending you many blessings of wealth, health, and happiness today and always!
Gong hei fat choy!