Family & Feasting: Celebrations for Chinese New Year

It’s Chinese New Year this weekend and it’s a pretty big deal for us as a part Asian household.  Like Christmas, it’s about getting together with your family and like Christmas, there’s a lot of eating and many traditional dishes.  The meal is based around wishes for the coming year and you need to eat a share of each dish to make sure you make the wish for the year.

First of all: dumplings.  Lots of dumplings.  They represent traditional money bags and frankly we adore dim sum.  There should be fish because the word for fish sounds a lot like the word for “plenty”. It’s normally a whole steamed fish with spring onions and ginger. There are long, long  noodles for longevity, roast meats, severed whole for unity.  There are oranges afterwards to represent gold and sweet sticky cake for sweetness for your year.

There’s a lot of preparation that needs to be done before the big day as well.  Using knives, scissors and brooms all cut off & sweep away the good luck so they can’t be used.  You should be in new, brightly coloured clothes and there needs to be a lot of noise to scare off any bad luck demons. Basically, get your chores done, dress up and get ready for the serious business of partying.  And Chinese parties are definitely noisy, even without firecrackers.

This year, like most years, we’re going into London searching again for a dim sum place that my mum will finally love.  The one we’re going to doesn’t open on Sundays though so we’ll be missing the big lion dances around Chinatown, and it looks like Bournemouth will be celebrating in the Sovereign Centre on the Saturday so we’ll miss that too.  I’ll just have to find some clips on Youtube and turn those drums up loud & dance in the kitchen instead.

Chinese New Year family celebrations

This was a trip a few years ago.  Red coats, red balloons and bright green pandan cake, a very light fluffy cake a little like a Genoise sponge with a similar taste to a greener coconut.

Chinese New Year family celebrations Lion Dance

This is the performance you’re most likely to see.  It’s a lion dance and it’s usually performed by a local martial arts team as it’s a very acrobatic and physical display.  Red packets are hung with lettuce and the lion will dance in front of a restaurant or shop before climbing up to collect the red packet and throw the lettuce to the floor.  The red packets have the payment for the dancers.  The position for the head is particularly active so the team will regularly swap roles, which is why you see drummers with furry leg costumes. The top right image is a traditional Chinese prince’s costume.  He makes Ru Paul look drab.

Chinese New Year family celebrations dragon Dance

These are dragons.  The paper ones are common but it’s unusual to see a full dragon display.  It’s more of a huge puppetry display than the gymnastic lions, very graceful and swooping.  If you’re not sure what you say, it was probably a lion dance rather than a dragon.

Chinese New Year family celebrations dim sum

And finally the dim sum. You’ve got to be fast though, if you sit taking pictures, someone else will steal your dumplings.

If you’d like me to join your family celebrations and capture the joy and colour that make it special, give me a call on 07989 194 574, email me on [email protected], or leave me a message here. I’d really like to come and capture what makes a celebration that really belongs to your family.

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