Welcoming balance, spring and the Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year brings in spring and marks a change in the calendar with the commencement of the year of the Dog according to the Chinese zodiac. The festival is not just celebrated in China but also in other countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. This joyous time is celebrated with friends and family where traditions that bring in good luck and prosperity are enjoyed. One such tradition celebrated during this spring festival to attract positivity to yourself and your loved ones is by bringing in the age old philosophy of Yin and Yang into your cooking and food. This philosophy is believed to have originated in the early Han dynasty. Yin and Yang are basically two opposing yet at the same time complimentary principles or forces. It is believed that these complimentary forces are present in everything and these elements need to be balanced. However, it can be the case where one element is more predominant in an object thus making it Yin or Yang. This is the case even with food items. Yin foods are usually fresh and raw like vegetables, fruits, smoothies, alcohol, soups and dry fruits. As for the yang foods, they are dry and need to be cooked like meat, eggs and grains. The categorization is reflective of the effect that the food has inside the body upon consumption.
Chinese food and its variations is one of the most popular cuisines around the world but the one thing that people are usually unaware of Chinese food is the unique element called Chinese Medicinal Cuisine. The main principle behind Chinese Medicinal Cuisine is to introduce Yin and Yang to the way we eat. This ancient food therapy has been passed down from generation to generation. The meal that is prepared uses traditions and techniques with the belief that each ingredient is added to restore health and cure ailments. It is believed that the Chinese symbol of Yin reflects the shaded side of a hill and signifies femininity, coolness, dampness and darkness. Whereas Yang reflects the sunny side of the hill that signifies masculinity, warmth, dryness and light. So foods which have yin elements are know to be cool so they moisten the body and yang food are known to be warm and drying. According to the practitioners of this belief the balance between yin and yang foods ensure good health and nutrition in a person. This happens because when we eat a balanced diet of Yin and Yang foods the energy or chi (fundamental life force that flows through everything) that flows through our body flows smoothly, making all our organs function properly.
There are certain dishes that have a symbolic meaning that are eaten during the Chinese New Year. They are served in a particular manner during this 16 day festival as it is believed to bring good luck for the coming year. And its not just the food eaten but also the way these dishes are prepared, served and then eaten that have a significant meaning in welcoming the new year. Some of the dishes that are significant and the luck they are believed to bring in upon being consumed are as follows:
· Noodles for happiness and longevity
· Dumplings and spring rolls for wealth
· Tangyuan (sweet rice balls) for family togetherness
· Niangao (glutinous rice cake) for a higher income or status
· Tangerines and oranges for fullness and wealth
· Fish for an increase in prosperity
So may this Chinese New Year bring in happiness, prosperity and good health for you and your loved one, Gong Xi Fi Cai!