Year of the Rabbit
Celebrations start tonight (NY's eve) and will go through February 15th ~ for the Xin-Mao year. Most Rabbit years are quiet, positive and inspiring ~ a refreshing change after the fast-moving and quite dramatic Year of the Tiger. Family, diplomacy and personal development will be highlighted in 2011.
In preparing for the new year, people clean their homes thoroughly ~ cleaning out the 'dirt' from the past year. And then at midnight (tonight), it is usual to open your doors and windows to let the old year out and the new year in!
Chinese New Year is steeped in tradition, many of which are associated with food. Almost every dish prepared for this celebration has a symbolic meaning or name that sounds like the Chinese characters for fortune, happiness, longevity and prosperity ~
Platters of 5 different foods are often offered representing the 5 blessings of the new year: longevity, riches, peace, wisdom and virtue. Great care is taken to serve an even number of dishes to bestow "double happiness" on the family.
To ensure completeness and to avoid misfortune, most New Year dishes are prepared with uncut or whole ingredients ~ serving a whole chicken during the Chinese New Year season symbolizes family togetherness; uncut noodles represent long life.
The word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words for both wish and abundance. As a result, on New Year's Eve it is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.
Custom dictates that most families begin the first day of Chinese New Year with a vegetarian meal to counteract the effects of the excessive feasting on New Year's Eve. The meat-free meal is also considered fortuitous for attracting good karma by refraining from eating anything that has been killed.