Celebration Event

Celebration Event



TheChinese people revere the Chinese New Year event celebration. Thispaper entails details on the different gastronomic aspects of theChinese New Year celebration in relation to what they mean in Chineseculture. The Chinese New Year is one of the most importantcelebrations that the nation marks on its lunar calendar. The ventbegins twenty days before the eve of the last day of its lunarcalendar. The Chinese New Year celebration vitally showcases thelong history of china. Thus, the every aspect of food, including thefood choices during the event fundamentally demonstrates the varyingcultural beliefs, customs, traditions, and historical orientations ofthe Chinese people.

Particularattention on the social customs, culinary traditions, culinarysymbolisms, ceremonies, rituals, protocols, the meanings andinfluences of specific gastronomic themes during the Chinese New Yearputs the entire cultural event into perspective. Two specificdelicacies are prepared on the Chinese New Year celebrations: Thelaba garlic and the laba porridge. The dishes symbolize differentaspects of Chinese culture as would be discussed in the laterparagraphs.The Chinese use their gastronomic diversity to showevery aspect of the event as essential to the continuity of thecultures that define the Chinese New Year event celebration. Throughout this research paper, incisive details of dining cultures,dining etiquette, gastronomic communication and influences of theChinese New Year event intend to support the assertion of Chef LouisSzathmary that, “ The kitchens of every nation have one dish whichis not a dish, not even a meal, but rather exists as an event.” TheChinese New Year Celebrations importantly show the vast of Chineseculinary cultures hence, its gastronomic details embody the core ofthe country’s food culture.

TheHistory of the Chinese New Year celebration

TheChinese New Year event has a long history of more than four thousandyears (Braudel, 1995). At first, Chinese farmers used the event tomark the end of winter and the beginning of the spring. After thecelebrations, farmers worked very hard to prepare their land ofspring planting. The cleaned up the fields, tilled the land, andplanted new seeds. After planting, the farmers prayed for plentyharvests of their crops. Spring was, therefore, the New Year. TheChinese considered spring as the New Year because it represented thebeginning of a new planting season. Praying through festivities wasimportant to the farmers because it marked a new season of newexpectations about crop yield. At the end of every winter, farmerscleaned their homes and held a feast to celebrate the new beginning. After the feast, the rested until the next time they had to work onthe fields again(Feuerwerker, 1978).

Apartfrom the peculiar gastronomic traditions that have defined theChinese New Year to date, the dragons, lions, lights, andfirecrackers were also important aspects of the farmer’scelebrations of the New Year. At first, the farmers and othermembers of the community feared the beast. Later, they discoveredthat the beast also feared red color, loud noises, and bright light. The farmers decided to use the things that the beast feared to keepthe beast at bay. They painted the door s of their houses red, setfires outside during celebrations, set off firecrackers to scare thebeast. Today, wild beasts (sometimes referred to as the YearMonster), firecrackers, bright lights, and red color are importantsymbols of the Chinese New Year celebrations that complement thegastronomic traditions discussed in the later chapters.

Culturalfood choices during Chinese New Year celebrations

Thereare two very important dishes that cannot miss on the menu of theChinese New Year event: The Laba Garlic (referred to as the LabaSuan), and Laba porridge (referred to as Laba Zhou). The formertakes two days of preparations so that is served on the New Year’seve. Laba Suan is served with jiaozi (dumplings). Laba Zhousymbolizes the people’s prayer for abundant harvest in thefollowing year. The other food choices that characterize this uniquefestival are part of the traditions carried out in the festivals thatmark the Chinese New Year celebration (Oakes, 1999). They include:

Sesamesnaps (also called zhimatang): Zhimatang is a thick, sweet pastecovered with nuts and vegetable seeds. It is prepared to prevent aChinese god called Zaowang from uttering offensive words to theSupreme god. The Chinese believe that the thick paste sticksZaowang’s mouth so hard that he cannot speak.

Dumplings(also referred to as Jiaozi): The Jiaozi is usually fried or steameddepending on which part of China the specific family comes from. Thefood is a symbol of a new beginning. Dumplings cannot miss in atypical New Year ’s Eve menu.

Chicken(referred to as Ji): Chicken has been included over the years becauseit is a symbol of good luck. Historically, farmers used chicken tosymbolize good luck.

Fish(referred to as yu): Fish symbolizes the abundance that the familyanticipates as the New Year begins. There are also other foodchoices that play the same role as chicken in different regions ofChina such as niangao(theNew Year’s cake).

Theflowery flour bans (referred to as huamo): The huamo is prepared onthe first day of the New Year. They are served in different shapesthat resemble flowers and animals. Every family member gets one. Oneof the buns prepared has a nut inside it. A family member whounknowingly eats the bun with the net is promoted to familyleadership.

Stickrice balls (referred to as Tangyuan): They symbolize thetogetherness, happiness, and cohesion of the family. Tangyuan isprepared on the final day of the New Year’s event celebration.

Thesocial customs and beliefs during the festival

Forpurposes of clarity, gastronomic customs and beliefs during the NewYear celebrations are essential (Watson, 2000). The most importantsocial custom during the festival is the reunion dinner wherefamilies eat dumplings (Jiaozi) throughout the night while firingfirecrackers. While eating family members exchange gifts as theyplan to visit their relatives as a sign of good will. The Chinesebelieve that the food served during reunion dinner must symbolize theimportance of family unity, harmony, and prosperity. As mentionedabove, the Jiaozi is a mixture of different fillings and flour. Thefamily eats the Jiaozi on the eve of the New Year. The typical shapeof the Jiaozi for most Chinese families is that of ancient coin usedby ancient Chinese communities (Watson, 1987). They believe that theshape resembling the coin is the driving force behind the prosperitythat every family anticipates in the following spring year. They alsobelieve that by eating the Jiaozi, they welcome wealth into thefamily the following year. Participants wrap candy, chestnuts,coins, and peanuts in some of the Jiaozi to symbolize the differentblessings they anticipate for the family the next spring year. Wrapping a candy inside a Jiaozi symbolizes one’s wish of sweetlife in following year for the family. Peanuts symbolize longevitythat emanates from great health, chestnuts symbolize the vigor withwish family members should pursue prosperity. Customarily, differentthe people of China eat the Jiaozi in the first weeks of the newSpring Year.

TheCulinary traditions and symbolisms during the festival

Chinesedishes during the festival contain meat except the Daikon, the tangytomato, and the Tofu. Chinese chefs or family members assigned tocook during the festival prefer custom preparations of the differentfoods. Food symbolizes different meanings in the Chinese New Yearfestival. Although it is mentioned above that the dishes are hardlymeatless, the Chinese also include a vegetarian dish called jai.Jai ispart of the culinary traditions that they must fulfill on the NewYear’s Day. The ingredients of the jaisymbolizedifferent meanings of the ceremony(Liuv &amp R. MacFarquhar, 2008). The lotus seed symbolize the family and community’s wish for manyoffspring the gingo nut, dried bean curd, and black moss seaweedsymbolize the wealth that family anticipates in the new spring year.The bamboo shoots symbolize the good fortune and luck of thecommunity. Roast duck is served in families on the first day of theNew Year because red dishes (the duck turns red when it is roasted)to symbolize the happiness of the community. The sweetness of thesticky rice cakes symbolizes a wealthy, sweet life, while the layersof the cake symbolize increased abundance and prosperity during thecoming Spring Year. Tofuis a taboo food that signifies death and misfortune because it iswhite. To eliminate the possibility of misfortune, the Tofuis dried and fried so that its color changes to golden. The changeof the Tofucolorfrom white to golden symbolizes the attainment of wealth andhappiness for families. Noodles symbolize a long life for members ofthe family and the community.

Thefangshengritual(the ritual of giving life)

Thefangshengritualis observed on the second day of the New Year where different speciesof fish are set free (Moey, 2005). TheChinese people are fond of fish hence, they take satisfaction andpride when they fulfill the fangshengritual.The carp fish is common set free by most families during thecelebrations because they consider it the favorite of the Chinesegods and the most appropriate. The ritual takes place at home or atthe temple. After prayers, the fish is taken in a jar to the river,lake or temple pond and ceremoniously released. In china, the act offangshengisa noble and act worth of praise because the heavens note and rewardsit.


Afterritual takes place after the Spring Banquet that takes place on thefirst day of the New Year (Liu &amp Lin, 2009). In most SpringBanquets, Chinese tradition demands that a whole fish is part of themeal.Fish is a symbol of abundance hence, it must always be partof the ceremony. The traditional aspect of the fish during the springbanquet is the fact it must be cooked and served whole. The Chinesehave abhorrence for the incomplete especially at important ceremoniessuch as the New Year. In traditional Chinese families, the dish isserved with some protocol. The head of the fish points towards thehead of the household who is usually an identified patriarch. Thepatriarch has the honor of choosing the choicest morsels. Thechoicest morsels in Chinese gastronomy are the eyes, lips, and cheeksof the fish. If the patriarch declines, he delegates the honor tothe next most important person at the table or single out a favorite. The patriarch also has the responsibility to detach the bone fromthe fish when the top half is eaten. He does that using the deft turnof the chopsticks. Turning the fish over is believed to bringmisfortune. The superstition originated from the fishing families inSouthern China who believed that their boats would capsize of thefish was turned over.

Diningcultures and etiquette as part of gastronomic communication

During the celebrations, the way a person behaves at the dining tableprovides hints of who they are in terms of their demeanor. Diningcultures involve close attention to details. The dining table isusually round or square-shaped and the food placed at the center. The participants are usually family members. Each member has a bowlfor fan, a saucer, a spoon, and of course chopsticks. Allparticipants take food from the t’saidishat the center as they continue to eat(Cooper, 1986).The t’saidishis usually served with the rice. As a culinary tradition, one is notsupposed to eat rice without the t’saidishbecause that will show that they despise its preparation. The mostcommon dining etiquette when all the above dishes are served isdeference. The general rule of etiquette is ‘defer to others ineverything”(Jiang 2000).The Chinese keep the tradition of sharing what is meant foreverybody. Thus, one is not supposed to eat only form their preferreddishes but all the dishes. Furthermore, one’s consumption should bein such a way that everyone on the table has almost an equivalentamount. Taking the remains of a dish is a show of politeness andrespect for others. The young are expected to defer to the old duringmeals. Thus, all culinary aspects during the Chinese New Yearfestival communicate a multiplicity of cultural issues forindividuals and the society.

Inconclusion, the gastronomy of Chinese New Year festival has so manyimportant issues that need further research and documentation.Considering that the New Year festival is the most important event onthe Chinese Lunar calendar, the culinary cultures present in it alsoembody the general culinary culture of the Chinese people. Most ofthe cultural dishes, rituals, and protocols discussed above, are areflection of the history of the festival. The festival is mainly anall-meat affair, but the Doiko vegetarian dish is also a veryimportant feature of the event celebration. The fangshengritualembodies the common belief in the existence of Chinese gods that arebelieved to decide the fate of the society in the next year. Chinesepatriarchy is part of the culinary protocol of the festival. Thepatriarch is a male who exercises his authority during a typical NewYear Feast. Chinese culture defines every aspect of the cuisines. This explains why every culinary procedure and dining culture elicitsa lot of anthropological analyses.


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