TV chef Katie Chin

January 26th kicks off the year of the ox. So we asked TV chef Katie Chin, co-author of
Everyday Chinese Cooking along with her mother, to tell us about all the wonderful foods and traditions associated with Chinese New Year — and how to host your own celebration.

Imagine if all your actions and the foods you ate on New Year's day dictated how the rest of your year would unfold.

The Chinese believe this to be true and, thus, Chinese New Year is a hugely significant holiday and time-honored tradition celebrating the sacredness of the family and representing a time of renewal. Food plays a major role in the celebration, and every dish prepared holds auspicious meaning and is believed to directly affect one's fortune for the coming year.

Every year, my family creates an amazing Chinese banquet filled with dishes that carry special meaning. Each dish represents in some way luck, honor, longevity and riches, such as Firecracker Shrimp (for good luck) or Long Life Noodles (for longevity the longer the life). Some other examples include:

  • Eggrolls symbolizing prosperity, as they're shaped like gold bars
  • Shrimp served at celebratory occasions, since the Chinese word for shrimp ("har") resembles laughter
  • Whole fish symbolizing abundance
  • Whole chicken symbolizing a favorable start and finish
  • Black mushrooms symbolizing prosperity because of their coin-like shape
  • Lotus seed signifies having many male offspring

Who knew symbolism could taste so delicious?

Customs and traditions are just as important as food when it comes to
celebrating Chinese New Year. Here are a few of the fun and interesting
customs that are followed to ensure good luck and favorable conditions
for the new year:

  • Refrain from using foul language or bad words on New Year's Day or they will follow you throughout the year
  • Washing hair is not allowed because you will wash away your good luck for the year
  • Greeting friends with oranges or tangerines during the new year will ensure that your friendships remain intact
  • No sweeping on New Year's Day as you'll sweep all your good luck out the door
  • Stepping into new shoes on New Year's morning to start your year off on the right foot (my personal favorite)
  • Distribution of red envelopes (signifying joy and luck) filled with money to start the year with prosperity

Creating Your Own Chinese New Year Celebration
It’s easy to re-create an authentic Chinese New Year celebration in your own home with these fun and easy ideas:

  • Hang Chinese lanterns to create a festive atmosphere
  • Make
    red envelopes (lai see) out of red construction paper and fill them
    with chocolate coins or dollar bills. Distribute to children.
  • Decorate with bowls of tangerines (to symbolize friendship) and narcissus flowers (to symbolize renewal)
  • Create centerpieces with glass bowls of live goldfish (the gold color symbolizes prosperity)
  • Ask your friends to dress in red (the most auspicious color)
  • Create place settings by writing guest names on paper fans
  • For
    dessert, make hand-dipped chocolate fortune cookies a hands-on party
    activity. Dip cookies in nuts, sprinkles and crushed candies.
  • Make
    a couple of quick and delicious Chinese New Year dishes, such as long
    life noodles and a stir-fry shrimp dish. Round out your menu and save
    time by buying store-bought egg rolls.

For quick and easy Chinese
New Year recipes, more entertaining tips and Katie’s cooking videos, go

Evite provides a plethora of Chinese New Year invitations. Browse the collection here.

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