Chinese New Year is believed to a be a chance to sweep away all the negative and welcome in good luck to your home, family and your life. Do you know your ben ming nian?
The new Lunar Year festival starts during the last week of January up and until the 31st during a period called the “Little Year” when preparations are underway before the official start of the New Year.
New Year’s eve is marked by a family dinner or reunion dinner (Nián Yè Fàn) to bring good luck for the coming year. The period between the 1st and 11th of February the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival followed by the Lantern Festival between the 12th and 15th of February.
An important Chinese New Year tradition is wine drinking which is offered to ancestors and to the gods. As an early agricultural society the first alcoholic drinks in China were made of fermented grain. There isn’t a specific type of niánjiǔ or drink so here are three cocktails that provide the essence of the Spring Festival.
Jade Cocktail Recipe
2 Fl oz / 60ml white rum
1/4 Fl oz / 8ml green crème de menthe
1/2 Fl oz / 15ml Cointreau
1/2 Fl oz / 15ml of lime juice
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in all the ingredients. Shake well until chilled and strain into a martini glass.
Saketini Cocktail Recipe
2 1/2 Fl oz / 75ml of gin or vodka
1/2 Fl oz / 15ml of sake
Cucumber slice, or green olive, for garnish
Note: To sweeten this cocktail add 1/2 Fl oz / 15ml of orange juice or orange liqueur.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in all the ingredients. Shake well until chilled and strain into a cocktail glass.
Lotus Blossom Martini Cocktail Recipe
3 lychees or use Lychee liqueur as a substitute
1/2 Fl oz / 15ml simple syrup
1 lime wedge
1 1/2 Fl oz / 45ml vodka
1/2 Fl oz / 15ml pear juice
1 Fl oz / 30ml sake
Garnish with a pear slice
Place all ingredients into the cocktail shaker ensuring the lychee's are peeled and de-stoned along with a simple syrup, pear juice and a lime wedge and muddle gently. Add the vodka and sake and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a pear slice.
Celebrating the Chinese New Year dates back over 3,000 years and the legend of a mythical beast called Nian (/nyen/, which sounds the same as 'year' in Chinese).
Nian was believed to live under the sea or in the mountains and appeared every Lunar New Year's Eve to eat people and livestock.
Nian feared the colour red, loud noises, and fire. To scare away the beast, people displayed red paper, burned bamboo, lit candles, and wore red clothes. These traditions have been continued and today are represented by firecrackers, fireworks and dragon dances.
2,000 years saw the Chinese Zodiac created. There are 12 animal signs to the Chinese zodiac or Sheng Xiao (生肖), and 2022 marks the year of the Tiger 虎 (hǔ) which is associated with strength, bravery, and the exorcising evils.
The Chinese zodiac is a repeating 12-year cycle of animal signs and their given attributes, based on the lunar calendar.
Each animal sign is derived from ancient animal worship dating back to the Qin dynasty. According to Chinese myth and legend the Jade Emperor called upon the animals to a “great race” to compete to be his guards. Their placement in the race determined their rank and placement in the zodiac starting with the rat.
One of the must do’s each Chinese New Year is looking up your “ben ming nian” or your birth year as each animal sign has its own personality traits, romantic compatibility, and prospects fortune in the year ahead.
2023: Year of the Rabbit 兔 (tù)
2024: Year of the Dragon 龙 (lóng)
2025: Year of the Snake 蛇 (shé)
Other animal signs include the Ox 牛 (niú), Rat 鼠 (shǔ), Horse 马 (mǎ), Goat 羊 (yang), Monkey 猴 (hóu), Rooster 鸡 (jī), Dog 狗 (gǒu), and Pig 猪 (zhū).
Food and drink plays an important part in New Year celebrations and many dishes are created for their symbolic meaning and to give blessings for the next year.
The most common Chinese New Year foods include dumplings, fish, spring rolls, and nian gao (New Year Sweet Rice Cake) that symbolise a combination of prosperity, family togetherness, happiness and longevity.
Today there are many big Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia such as London (#CNYLondon) organised by the The London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA).
新年快乐 Xīn nián kuài lè – Happy New Year!