How & Why We Celebrate Chinese New Year
This post was sponsored by Ling Ling, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Six years ago, I was packing up two suitcases with all of my belongings and all of the school supplies I could fit in them and getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime. After getting my left knee totally replaced, courtesy of my tumor, I finally felt like I was ready to take on the world and shove it right back in cancer’s face. I was going to take back my life and everything that cancer had told me that I would never be able to accomplish or do. So, as any logical twenty-four year old would do, I deferred from school, packed my suitcases, and got on a plane that took me across the world, to Weihai, China.
There, I had the amazing opportunity to teach English to 60 of the cutest Chinese 2nd and 3rd graders in the whole country. I spent 3 hours every afternoon singing songs, doing crafts, and teaching English through immersion and spent my mornings, nights, and weekends exploring the city and the rest of the country. While there was a bit of a culture shock at first, I fell head-over-heels in love with Weihai, Chinese Culture, the food, and the amazing people who lived there.
5 months later, after tearfully saying goodbye to my sweet students, I packed my life back up, got back on the plane, and returned stateside. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about China, my students, or the smell of “Jiaozi” from the night markets by the grocery store. One day, I will take Dustin back to China and show him all of my favorite places and eat all of my favorite things, but until we can swing that kind of trip, we do our best to celebrate the Chinese New Year to keep my love for the country and culture alive!
So, what is this holiday all about? The Chinese New Year is one of the most important and most celebrated holidays in China and revolves around the appearance of the first Lunar Moon (typically between January 21st and February 15th.) This year, the celebrations start on February 5th, just a few days away! There are a ton of myths and customs that surround the holiday and vary by region, but typically, the holiday is centered around a reunion dinner with family, cleaning the home (to remove ill-fortune and welcome luck,) decorating with paper lanterns, and the handing out of money in red envelopes from the elderly to the young. The Chinese New Year also revolves around their zodiac animal calendar, which is why every year has an animal associated with it!
This year (2019) is the year of the Pig! People who are born under the Pig are considered to be down-to-earth, likable, honest, and fair. They are thought to be friendly, compassionate and have an excellent judge of character. Despite their belief in other people, they can often underestimate themselves and feel they lack the skills or talent to achieve what they want most in life.
Easy ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year:
- Spring Clean
- Go Shopping
- Visit Relatives & Friends
- Wear something new or something red
- Eat traditional Chinese food
Dustin and I always do a Spring Clean during the Chinese New Year and then finish the day with some dumplings/potstickers, since that is a typical food eaten in the northern parts of China during the holiday (and that’s where I lived.) Now, I am VERY, VERY picky when it comes to Chinese food. (Spoiler alert, American Chinese food is NOTHING like real Chinese food and real Chinese food is 1 MILLION times better!) So, I’m basically a potsticker snob, and I’m not sorry about it. I have tried so many versions of potstickers that you can buy at the grocery store and honestly, the only ones that live up to my standards are the Ling Ling Chicken Potstickers! Those things are bursting with authentic Chinese flavors, made with high-quality (and clean) ingredients, and come with a signature dipping sauce that literally tastes like the sauce I got at the JiaJiaYue (local supermarket) down the street from the school I taught at. They are also super easy to cook – you just pop them into a boiling pot of water frozen and in 5-6 minutes, they are ready to eat! TIP: If you want to experience dumplings in the most traditional way, either boil or steam them! We very rarely had them fried in China and soft dumplings are my FAVORITE!
It’s one of my greatest hopes that others can come to learn and love the people and customs of China as I did, so I highly encourage everyone to learn a little more about the Chinese New Year and find a small way to celebrate it! Just snagging a bag of Ling Ling Potstickers from Costco is an easy, tasty, and fun way to incorporate the holiday into everyday life!
What questions do you have about China or the Chinese New Year? Let me know!