Think back 25 years ago. There might have been a dim awareness that China celebrates its new year at some point in January or February, but not much more than that. China was vast, alien and somewhere 'over there'. Outside of a few major European cities, it really didn't register.
Fast forward to 2018 and that's become a very different story. Anyone taking a stroll down Strøget recently will have noticed the lanterns adorning Copenhagen's main shopping street. As the Chinese dollar grows, more and more cities are getting in on the act and that means celebrating the new year in style. Chinese style.
Chinese New Year varies year to year as it is based on the traditional Chinese calendar. This year, it begins February 16 and will usher in the year of the dog (google it. There’s loads of interesting stuff out there!). Like the western Christmas, the celebration revolves around family, a general bonhomie and a feel good factor that, in a Chinese context, you might even label hygge. But, if you’re going to do it properly, it lasts considerably longer, running right up to the Lanterns Festival on March 2. That’s right. A whopping two weeks of celebrations. You’ll need stamina. By the bucket load.
Food of course, as ever with China, is never far away. New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important gathering for the entire family, and every family member, no matter where they happen to be in the world, is expected to come back for this feast. The kitchen will be busy from early morning throughout the day with two or three generations cooking together. Every family will have their secret recipe, and there is no better day than new year’s eve to display all the tricks and skills. For this special dinner, there are some must-have dishes and more importantly, regardless of what is on the table, it should be chockablock with goodies waiting to be demolished! In Kewei’s Kitchen, we’ve also got some typical New Year dishes that you can sample.
Dumplings are quite probably the most well-known Chinese food, and it is a must-have on Chinese New Year. Dumplings (饺子 jiao zi) sounds the same as 交子(jiao zi) which refers to that moment of switchover from one day to the next. This is the one of the reasons dumplings have to be eaten at midnight on New Year Eve as it represents an adieu to the old and a welcoming of the new. Another reason is that the shape of dumplings resembles gold ingots, which in times gone by, were the currency in China. So eating dumplings is also a symbol of good fortune.
But of course, the most important reason is that dumplings are just so damned tasty. Everyone loves them! Certainly, it’s something we have had the pleasure of witnessing at Kewei’s Kitchen, and we offer both meat and vegetarian dumplings. Every single one is made with love. The process is complicated but incredibly satisfying, offering so much flavour in every bite. Little wonder then that the Chinese love them so much. Our customers do too!
Fish is a another must have for our New Year feast. Fish in Chinese is 鱼(yu) which has the same pronunciation as 余 (yu) and it means abundance and surplus. We often say 年年有余 (nian nian you yu) and wish each other surplus fortune and food in the coming new year. Therefore, a fish dish is the perfect representation of this meaning. Normally at New Year dinner, we are meant to have our fish whole and preferably big as it symbolises good fortune for the whole family. However, during the dinner we are not meant to eat more than half the fish as fish represents ‘surplus’. It is very important therefore, that there is something extra left over for the next day.
But, at Kewei’s Kitchen, we’re not going to follow these rules. You’ll be encouraged to enjoy our fish dishes in their entirety. And we have an amazing fish dish on the menu. Just don’t tell Kewei’s folks she’s breaking convention!
Now, what else should you do to throw yourself into the spirit of Chinese New Year? Here’s a few tips.
First of all, there are the famous red envelopes and you'll notice that red is a ubiquitous theme throughout the whole celebration. The Chinese give each other red envelopes on New Year's Eve and, rather than gifts, the envelopes always contain money. It's for children essentially and as far as the notes are concerned, the more the merrier. Secondly, wear something red, or at least bright colours, and stay away from black and white, as it means death in Chinese culture. If you attend a CNY party or dinner, say 过年好 (guo nian hao) or 新年快乐 (xin nian kuai le) to other people first, because after they say happy new year back, it is your perfect chance to ask for a red envelope 红包 (hong bao). Now, as we've said, you might not get one if you’re an adult, but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained! It is just a bit of fun after all, and, if nothing else, there’ll be lots of food to sample. So without further ado, let us at Kewei’s Kitchen also take this opportunity to wish you all 新年快乐 (xin nian kuai le). It’s a wonderful time of the year. Enjoy!!!