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
- Select 4-6 of our suggested teas.
- 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.
- Entertain guests with lunar calendars and animal profiles.
- Give guests small red envelopes used 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.