Monday, January 26, 2009

Chinese New Year's Eve traditions from a typical family in China and a Recipe..

Looking back it is hard to believe our first Chinese New Year celebration with our Elizabeth was 3 years ago! I look at these first Chinese New Year pictures of her (and John) and see just how far she has come!! Each year we seem to add a bit more to our repertoire of Chinese New Year traditions and this year is no different. I also find it facinating to learn about the traditions a typical family in China celebrate this major holiday in their homeland. Here's some of what I've learned..

New Year's Eve Dinner

On the night of New Year's Eve, Chinese families come together for a
celebration dinner. This custom is also called "surrounding the
hearth," from the custom in earlier times of eating dinner around
the family hearth.

Both children and adults eat together and dinner begins only after
all of the family members are present at the table. A table setting
is placed for those unable to come home for dinner on this day to
symbolize their presence though far away. As the nuclear family
becomes an increasingly scarce phenomenon in modern society, this
symbol of unity takes on increasing significance.

New Year's Eve dinner is best eaten slowly, savoring the flavor of
each dish. Several of the dishes served on this occasion have
auspicious meaning and are indispensable to the night's menu:

- "Long Year Vegetables" (mustard greens) to represent intelligence;

- "Whole Chicken," symbolizing wealth for the whole family
(since "chicken" and "family" rhyme in the Taiwanese dialect

- fish balls, shrimp balls, and meat balls are eaten to symbolize
the three top scores earned during the civil service examination in
ancient China and, by extension, success in educational pursuits.

The only dish not included in the cornucopia of food eaten on the
New Year's Eve dinner table is whole fish, which is intentionally
left off the menu so that "there will be more to come in future
years" (since the Chinese words for "fish" and "surplus" rhyme).

Some families will also prepare "jiaozi," Chinese dumplings stuffed
with meats and vegetables. Since the shape of the dumplings
resembles a gold ingot, eating jiaozi symbolizes the calling of
wealth into one's life, and some go even as far as to stuff real
money in the dumplings to insure that the coming year will bring


CNY Food: Dumpling ("Jiaozhi") ... with a Recipe!!

People from north and south have different habits of the food they
eat on this special day.

In Northern China, people usually eat "jiaozi" (or dumpling), which
is shaped like a crescent moon. It is said that dumplings were first
known in China some 1,600 years ago.

The Chinese pronunciation of "jiaozi" means "midnight" or "the end
and the beginning of time."

According to historical records, in ancient times people from both
north and south ate dumplings on Chinese New Year's Day. Perhaps
because Southern China produced more rice than any other areas,
gradually, southerners had more other choices on New Year's Day.

The shape of jiaozi resembles that of ancient gold and silver ingots
or a crescent moon, and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty.

In some places, people stuff jiaozi with sugar to wish for a sweet
life; others put one or two clean coins in jiaozi -- if you happen
to come across one with a coin inside, it means you will enjoy good

Many families in China usually prepare enough jiaozi to last several
days during the Spring Festival.


1 lb. ground pork (or beef)
6 t. sesame oil
2 t. sugar
0.75 t. salt
0.25 t. pepper
0.25 lb. cabbage (with extra 1 t. salt)
0.25 lb. chopped green onions

3 c. flour
0.75 c. cold water
0.5 c. flour (to prevent sticking during kneading)


1. Filling: Mix ground pork, oil, sugar, salt and pepper well. Chop
cabbage until fine. Mix the cabbage with 1 t. salt and let sit for
10 minutes; squeeze out the excess water. Mix the cabbage, ground
pork, and green onions well.

2. Skin: In a bowl, add water to the flour and knead into smooth
dough; let it stand for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a long baton-
like roll, and cut it into 50 pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each
piece to a thin circle.

3. Place 1 portion of filling in the center of a dough circle. Fold
the circle in half and moisten the edges with water. Use index
finger and thumb to bring the sides together. Pleat one edge while
keeping the other edge smooth. The smooth edge will conform to the
decreased length of the pleated edge. Pinch the pleats together then
pinch to seal. Repeat procedure for the other dumplings.

4. Boil 10 cups of water and add dumplings; stir to prevent
dumplings from sticking together. Bring to a boil; turn the heat to
low and cook for 6 minutes. Remove. When serving, use vinegar, soy
sauce, sesame oil, hot bean paste, etc. as dipping sauces.

The boiled dumplings also can be lighty pan fried ("pot stickers")
for a different taste consitency.

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