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Chinese New Year - Year of the Rat

New Year Celebrations

The Chinese New Year is an important eastern celebration and the time of year when Chinese families reunite and honor their ancestors, carry out special rituals and traditions and send wishes of prosperity and good fortune. The country literally will close down for the first 4 or 5 days of the festivities with many businesses staying closed throughout the entire 15 day celebration. Transportation systems across China will be burgeoning with travelers heading home for this important event. 

Food is at the center of the festivities. But not just any food, dishes symbolize hope for good fortune for a positive year ahead.

This is a fun time to gather your family and friends for a New Year party. One way to celebrate the holiday is to hold a Chinese tea tasting. Keep it simple or go all out to kick off the Year of the Rat. Try our easy to use guide to hold your tea tasting. 

Chinese Tea Tasting Guide
Tea & Food 

 

  • Greet guests with a cup of tea that has been prepared ahead and re-heated as suggested.

 

  • If you don't want to prepare a meal, schedule your tasting in between major meal times so guests don't expect lunch or dinner.

 

  • Either way, have light snacks out for guests to nibble as they drink their tea. Almond cookies can be prepared ahead and kept fresh in a sealed container.
  • Rice crackers with nuts and other pre-made items can be found at Chinese markets.

 

  • Don't forget fortune cookies, they are always fun.

 

  • Steamed dumplings are an easy, more substantial addition. Frozen dumplings are available at Chinese markets and are stuffed with various ingredients for flavor variety. Dumplings do not re-heat well! They are quick to prepare so steam and serve immediately.

 

  • Edamame is another simple snack, not traditionally Chinese, but a fun snack your guests will enjoy.

 

  • Include candied or dried fruits.

 

  • Orange and tangerine sections would also be traditional to serve.

 

Foods are highly symbolic and an important part of this festive occasion.

Tea Tasting Tips

    • Gather the items you will need the day before. Make sure you have teapots, filters, strainers, cups and dishes for wet and dry leaves, a timer, a kettle and additional containers to heat water on the stove.

 

  • Set up a special "tasting" table where guests can see and take part in the tasting. Remember preparation can get messy so be ready for drips and spills.

 

  • When you begin your tasting get your guests involved by preparing the various teas so that they can see you.

 

  • Pass around dry tea leaves on plates for guests to see while the tea is brewing.

 

  • Once the tea is brewed, pass around the wet leaves for a comparison.

 

  • Know what types of tea you are preparing- black, green, oolong etc. and be sure you have brewing tips and times down.

 

  • Taste the teas hot and then after they have cooled a bit and discuss the differences.

 

  • Not everyone will like everything and that is part of the fun.

 

Decorations, Favors and Entertainment

    • Scatter bowls of oranges, complete with leaves if possible, symbolizing relationship security.

 

  • Decorate using fresh flowers and live plants representing life and rebirth.

 

  • Red is the color of the New Year and represents prosperity. Use red napkins, a red door hanger, red table coverings; incorporate the color anywhere possible.

 

  • Keep things festive and use in-expensive bamboo steamers of different sizes to serve dumplings to guests.

 

 

  • Give guests a small red envelopes to symbolize your sentiments of good fortune and prosperity to the recipient.

 

Sharing the Chinese New Year with friends and family is fun, tasty and rewarding. Read a first-hand account of this historical celebration through the eyes of Amy Zhang, who manages our office in China. She shares her fondest memories of celebrating with her family as a child and how the holiday is evolving in China today. Read Amy's story.

ADDITIONAL FOOD MEANINGS

During this special time the Chinese like to celebrate with a bounty of different foods, each symbolizing something different for the upcoming year.

A whole braised or broiled fish, to signify togetherness, or a noodle dish to impart wishes of long life and health. 
Offering many different types of foods at celebrations symbolizes an abundance of happiness, wealth and successes in the year to come.

While the Chinese are certainly not big into sweets at the New Year cakes and other sweets emulate rising fortune, and enhanced sweetness of life.

Some additional foods the Chinese prepare for luck and prosperity include:

Lo Han Jai - vegetarian stir-fry dish with root vegetables, lotus, ginkgo nut, black moss seaweed, dried tofu or bean curd, bamboo shoots, can include cabbage and mushrooms. Saute vegetables with soy sauce and sesame oil, add chicken broth and cornstarch to create a sauce.

Sticky Rice cake - (Neen Gow, Nian Gao)- steamed fruitcake made with glutinous rice flour.

Turnip cake - savory cake typically made with seafood, Chinese sausage, vegetables and rice flour.

New Year Salad - typically serve don't he 7th day to celebrate "everyone's birthday"- Raw whitefish salad, with citrus fruits and crunchy vegetables. 

Black seaweed and oysters - dried oysters and seaweed are cooked with soy sauce to create a savory sauce and served on blanched lettuce or cabbage.

What Lies Ahead in the Year of the Rat?

The Rat is the 1st Sign of the Lunar Cycle and this year is the year of the positive Earth Rat. The last time we were in a positive Earth Rat cycle was February 10th, 1948 to January 28th, 1949.

Coming off of 2 consecutive "Fire" years life may seem calmer during this Earth year. The Rat never stops moving, especially when it comes to mental activity so don't be deceived by the calm.

Mixing of the Rat's fixed element water and the earth element of 2008 none of should rely on luck this year to get us through. Alternately, the Earth/Rat combination creates a great balance between the risky Rat and practical and stable Earth element. This balance creates positive results leading to good profits, increased productivity and other positive achievements. 

The first sign in the Chinese zodiac the Rat symbolizes new beginnings. So this is a good year to start new ventures and look outside the box. It's the perfect time to try new ideas, create a new direction in your personal or business life or venture out with new ways of doing things. Experiment a little; there are plenty of opportunities to find success. And with Earth's influence there could be fewer scandals than in other Rat years.

This is an equally good time for thinking and all kinds of intellectual endeavors. Planning, scholarship and research, for example, are favorable activities. It is also an auspicious time for the arts; although, under Earth's influence, applied arts such as design and graphics may do best. 

Earth favors those who are tied to the land, do a lot of routine work, deal with practical matters, or perform work of a spiritual nature. Looking at the characteristics of both Earth and Rat it could be a very good year for those with careers in business, construction, engineering, academia, planning and the clergy. 

Because there is likely a strong focus on career and self improvement this year be careful not to let family fall to far from your radar. Be attentive and creative with your time creating ways to spend time with them while achieving your own successes. Speaking of family this will be a good year for new romantic endeavors and taking existing relationships to the next level.

2008 holds many possibilities and represents a time of new beginnings, progress and achievements. Earth's practical influence will make 2008 a well balanced year with little to no spectacular events or elements. This is definitely a good year for adding something new to your life.

Product Focus

Consider what you are serving and select teas that will compliment your function. Some teas are better than others for preparing ahead to be re-heated and that has been indicated below. 

Black teas are perfect to accompany sweets and are darker and more full bodied.

Organic Golden Monkey
Delicious with sweet tones this tea is best served hot and can be prepared 30 minutes prior to serving.

Keemun
A traditional full bodied black tea that is best served immediately.

China OP
A smooth, simple Chinese black tea that is delicious hot or iced. Can be prepared 30 minutes ahead. 

Organic Shui Xian
An exceptional tea with terrific digestive properties, perfect after heavy meals. Best served hot and not prepared ahead. Do not let this tea steep to long and do not use boiling water. 

Ginseng Oolong This sweet, light brew is terrific served with rice dishes and salty foods and can actually replace dessert.

Herbal tisanes can help bring a soothing element to your guests' fast-paced lives, providing both great taste and health benefits.

Organic Chrysanthemum Flower the only tea the Chinese drink cold this soothing light brew is not sweet like jasmine and does not have the same floral notes rather a simple character.

 

Green teas are a great compliment to your tasting or celebration. While they range in character green teas have a lighter body then black teas. 

Jasmine Leaf Organic
A traditional, sweet floral tea that goes well with fish. Light and refreshing and best served hot and not prepared ahead. 

Moroccan Mint Organic
This traditional mint tea is refreshing, can be served hot or cold and is great prepared ahead of time. 

Dragon Well Pre Qing Ming
One of China's most famous teas this exceptional flat leaf tea has a slight woody tone with hints of mild sweetness. Best served hot and not prepared ahead. 

White teas have a mild, delicate flavor with many different tastes and regional nuances.

Organic Jasmine Silver Needle
An exceptional bud or needle tea that is perfectly scented with organic jasmine flowers. Sweet notes and a smooth body, this has a more robust body then the jasmine green tea. Best served hot and not prepared ahead. 

Organic Bai Mu Dan 
This is a traditional Chinese white tea with a full body and earth tones. Can be served hot or cold, do not prepare ahead.

 

 What Animal Are You?

Determine what animal hides in your heart.

Year of the Rat - February 7th 2008

Lunar History

The Chinese lunar calendar originates back to 2637 B.C. and Emperor Huang Ti who first introduced the idea. The calendar is based on a complete 60 year cycle made up of 12 year cycles. Each year within the 12 year cycle is represented by an animal. The first of the 12 year cycles is the year of the rat. We are in the 78th 60 year cycle which began February 2nd, 1984 and will end in the year 2044.

The Legend of the Animals

There is a story attached to every historical event or happening in Chinese history and the "year of" animals are no exception. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to bid him farewell before he departed to Earth. 12 animals showed up, and so he named a year after each of them.

  1. Rat
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Ram
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11. Dog
  12. Boar

Similar to the monthly characters in the western horoscope, the animal that rules over the year of your birth is believed to strongly influence your life. The Chinese believe that the animal of your birth year "hides in your heart" determining many of your personality characteristics and even some of your physical attributes. What animal hides in your heart?

Along with the animal and there fixed element, that rules over your year there are elements assigned to each year that are also taken into account - Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire and Water. So 2008 is not just the year of the rat but an earth rat year.

How Will The Rat Affect You?

If you are a Rat
This is your year! And its action time for the ambitious rat. Temptations will be abundant so stave off the urge to be unfaithful in all your endeavors. Showing steadfastness and loyalty will be will rewarded and you will find yourself surrounded with friends, wealth and abundant happiness.

If you are a Ox
The always steady, well balanced Ox will work hard this year as always. 2008 will bring much reward for all your efforts bringing you prosperity and happiness. A year of choices can cause conflict within yourself and with others but stay the course and avoid disturbance, 2009 is your year, wait until then to make big decisions.

If you are a Tiger
The feisty Tiger must keep strife and adversity to a minimum, avoiding arguments and focusing their natural high energy on useful, worthwhile projects. Stay close to family and home for a calmer journey this year.

If you are a Rabbit
The restless Rabbit must resist the urge to avoid problems facing any situations head on. This is a good year for ringing the changes, and rabbits who switch careers, living arrangements will find themselves rewarded with comfort and prosperity. 2008 is also a fertile romantic breeding ground for the Rabbit so look for fulfilling entanglements.

If you are a Dragon
The Dragon and the Rat are good buddies, and 2008 is the perfect year for Dragons. Give wings to your dreams; this is the year to chase your greatest desires. From love prospects to professional success your friend the Rat is going to be good to you. Dragon's will find themselves surrounded with both new friends and fresh, positive opportunities.

If you are a Snake
2008 is a blockbuster year for Snakes! Slither toward all the opportunities that come your way both personally and professionally. Strike out at wealth and love particularly as it is almost guaranteed to go your way.

If you are a Horse
As a horse in 2008 you will be best served staying close to your stable and family. Avoid new romances as you may become saddle with something other than what you had hoped for. Consider business proposals carefully this is not the year for risky propositions. Stick with the comfortable, familiar pastures and enjoy this year with family and friends.

If you are a Ram
The Ram should spend 2008 preparing the groundwork for future successes. Open yourself up to new experience's this year after all it is the first year in the lunar calendar representative of new beginnings and new experiences. Avoid hasty decisions and listen closely to family and friends who have only your best interest at heart and bring many intuitive ideas for your future success.

If you are a Monkey
Monkeys will find a jungle full of banana's this year and are urged to pick and eat them. An abundance of opportunities head your way throughout the year with the best of these coming to fruition in the second half of the year. Romantic matches and personal wealth prosper in this fruitful time for the monkey so pick wisely.

If you are a Rooster
Bursting with energy the rooster will be spending much of 2008 trying to calm their abundant energy. Meditation and centering practices will aid the rooster in achieving positive results in the year ahead. Avoid conflict at all cost both at home and at work, acting thoughtfully and calmly in every situation.

If you are a Dog
The dog will have good fortune in the year ahead. You will find prosperity and new friendships in 2008. Stray away from home and take chances to seek out the special opportunities the rat has in store. Be a bold, confident puppy and turn problems into opportunities. Self assuredness will bring positive results in love so step out and be the "best of show!"

If you are a Boar
The successes and prosperity from 2007's Year of the Boar will roll over into 08. This year will be easily successful for the boar with all areas of your life feeling the love. Romance is definitely in the cards, and wedding bells could follow not far behind. Think that's enough, well the rat doesn't, the Boar will experience even more good fortune in financial opportunities quickly increasing wealth and status.