January 24, 2012

How to tame [this year's] dragon

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Yesterday was the start of a 15-day Spring Festival, marking the end of an old year and ushering the new one with an array of traditions and superstitions that are as distinct as the customs surrounding Christmas -- most of the western world celebrates one thing or another during the month of December, but each religion, community and family adds their own nuance to it.

The superstitions surrounding food are the ones that most easily stick out in my mind. This time of year plates ought to be filled with the following:

  • Noodles for a long life
  • jiaozi (dumplings) look like little gold pouches, so they'll bring you wealth
  • Fish for an abundant life; the Chinese word for "fish" sounds very similar to "abundance," which makes it an auspiciously delightful dish
  • Sticky rice, radish or taro cake (I've had all of them this week!) -- all of the foods contain the word "gao" which means "tall" or "high" in Chinese, which may mean a year of high achievements for you
  • Oranges and pomelos to keep your prosperity levels high
If you coordinate a meal with these foods, you'll surely be guaranteed a year full of good luck, abundant prosperity, wealth, and a healthy life.

Of course to go along with food traditions, there are several superstitions that you should take note of in the next two weeks; check out this CNN story that showcases what some Chinese will be be doing to ensure bad luck stays at bay in the coming year.

Even though I was in Asia for last year's Spring Festival, I wasn't in China for the actual Lunar New Year festivities. But I did make it back for the Lantern Festival, which wraps up the 15-day holiday. It was absolute madness. Hangzhou was transformed into a warzone of pops and explosions from fireworks. I remember fireworks bursting just outside my 15th floor window and my taxi driver that night broke his windshield from shrapnel from a partially-exploded shell. I've never seen such a spectacle -- it was incredible! See what I mean by checking out these photos from yesterday's celebrations across Asia, courtesy of The Atlantic.

Finally, I have to give a shoutout to my Chinese Zodiac Sign: the dragon. (You can learn your zodiac sign here). 

Here's to hoping the dragon brings a lot of luck, prosperity, and good health to your family and friends. I'm hoping I won't need to breathe much of my dragon fire this year ;-)
Gong xi fa cai! (Happy, healthy new year!)
see. eat. explore.

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