It’s the most anticipated and important festivity for Chinese people worldwide; a celebration full of colors, dances, fireworks and typical dishes. We invite you to discover this tradition from the Chinatown of the Aztec Capital.
The Legend says that Buddha, before dying, called all the animals of the earth, and the first to arrive was the rat, then the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. As a reward, they became the 12 animals of the Chinese horoscope. This is the most widespread version of its origin, although another popular version is one that says Jade Emperor called for a race among the animals of the earth. Either way, it is a millenary tradition and very important for the Chinese and other parts of Asia.
This Chinese New Year 2019 represents the year 4,717 of the lunar calendar. It began on February 5 and will last until January 24, 2020. As it’s ruled by the moon, its start date varies year by year in the Gregorian calendar that is used internationally. The celebrations last 15 days, culminating with the Lanterns Fest that on this occasion will be held on February 19.
This year the protagonist is the Pig of earth, which is associated with fertility and virility, and represents those who were born in 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1999, 2007 and 2019. For the Chinese tradition, the animal of your year of birth will have a great influence on your life, since it will always protect you and determine your future.
I was lucky to live in China and experiencing this festivity firsthand, in Shanghai, was truly amazing. If it seems that there are always many people on the streets, during these days there are even more. And, for the Spring Festival, as it is also known, almost all of China is on vacation. Millions of people travel to their hometowns to celebrate with the family. The cities are illuminated and decorated with colors, especially red and gold, while the endless fireworks seek to attract good luck and “scare away evil spirits”. The beginning of the new year is a time to finish pending tasks, reconcile friendships and re-establish old bonds, as well as a time to clean the house, buy new things and give gifts. Another of the most representative traditions is to give red envelopes with money from elders to minors, from parents to children or from supervisors to employees.
The celebration is not only in China and Asia, but also in big cities around the world where Chinese have immigrated. Mexico City is not the exception. Located in the city center, Chinatown is celebrating and decorating with colors, garland and ornaments along its streets. During the first two weeks of February there are cultural activities, martial arts exhibitions, drums, traditional dances of the dragon and lion, and of course, many fireworks. Thousands of visitors from all over Mexico and even foreigners have gathered to live the experience and taste a variety of special dishes for this festivity.
Chinese Gastronomy during the New Year
As in all Chinese traditions, typical gastronomy is loaded with symbolic meaning. And not only is the food considered “symbols of good luck”, but just as important is the way in which it is prepared and served. Let’s discover some of the recipes that cannot be missed from Chinese tables during this celebration.
Spring rolls take their name precisely because they are eaten during the Spring Festival. It is a rolled dough stuffed with vegetables and beef or pork. As they are fried, they get a golden tone that the Chinese relate to richness and prosperity. To accompany this internationally renowned dish, we recommend Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection Brut.
Fish sounds like “leftovers” in Chinese Mandarin, which is interpreted as there will always be leftovers, especially money, and with it, abundance. It can be prepared in different ways, but it should always be served whole on the plate, with the head pointing to the most important guest. Another tradition is not to eat the head and tail until the next day, so surplus is assured for next year. For a steamed fish, grilled or however you prefer, a Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Sauvignon Blanc will be an excellent choice for wine pairing.
Dumplings are a type of Chinese ravioli stuffed with meats and vegetables that are either boiled or steamed. During the Spring Festival the formation of the dough must have many sheets as a symbol of hope for wealth the following year. Not to be forgotten are Chinese noodles in soups or some stews, which are eaten without cutting in order to achieve longevity and happiness. For these two well known Chinese dishes, we recommend Trio Merlot, which goes very well with rice and pasta.
For dessert, the Chinese eat Niangao, a type of rice cake that is prepared with sugar, chestnuts, dates and lotus leaves. In Chinese it is composed with the characters that mean “year” and “bigger”, the popular belief that the older you get the more prosperous your life will be. By eating them for dessert it’s hopeful that adults can get higher pay and children can grow in good health. Also, for dessert there are the Tangyuan or sweet rice balls. They are round with meaning to hold and stay together. An excellent wine pairing option with these desserts would be a sweet and fruity wine like Late Harvest Concha y Toro.