Lunar New Year Around the World!

Lunar New Year Around the World!

You may recognize the Lunar New Year as only the Chinese New Year. But did you know that many other Asian countries also celebrate their own Lunar New Year around the same time? Some of these are based on the Chinese New Year while others are based on the country's own culture and historical traditions.

But one of the things that makes all of these Lunar New Year celebrations really special are all the diverse and traditional foods. These foods are made and shared among family and friends and they all symbolize different or similar things as well! This post is to help you gain a little insight into examples of traditional foods for some of the different countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year and what these dishes signify/ represent.

 

Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year)

The traditional dish for Tsagaan Sar is Tavgyn Idee, which is a set of long and thick pastries piled in odd numbers and decorated with dairies and sweets. It is usually placed in the middle of the feast table among all the other foods. The main pastry on this dish is UI Boov (Sole Cake). 

About the Dish And What it Represents:

UI Boov must be layered in odd numbers, meaning the life cycle goes through happiness and suffering. The first layer symbolizes happiness and while it turns suffering and happiness one after another, it always ends in happiness.

Also, depending on the age of the family’s oldest person and how many children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren they have, the layering number is determined. For example, a man over 80 years old can stack seven layers upwards.

 

Seollal (Korean Lunar New Year)

Specifically in South Korea, Seollal is way of celebrating and welcoming the Lunar New Year with family and loved ones. A couple of traditional dishes are Tteokguk (Rice Cake Soup) and varieties of Buchimgae (Korean Pancakes).

About the Dishes And What they Represent:

Tteokguk is a traditional dish. Eating a white food to begin the new year holds the religious meaning of rebirth for all creatures in the world and “Tteok” can represent becoming new and new beginnings. The dish represents all the good luck in the coming year. The rice cake is made into a long and white cylinder shaped called garaetteok. The shape and length symbolize wishing for longevity in life.

And some varieties of Buchimgae that are enjoyed during this time are usually hobak-buchimgae (korean zucchini pancake), kimchi-buchimgae (korean kimchi pancake), memil-buchimgae (buckwheat pancake) and buchu-jeon (garlic chive pancake).

 

Chinese New Year in Singapore

Singapore widely celebrates the more traditional Chinese New Year due to the high population of Chinese in the country. They have been able to incorporate their own traditional dishes to celebrate like Ong Lei (pineapple tart) and Kueh Bangkit (tapioca cookies).

 About the Dishes And What they Represent:

The fruit filled tarts are to bring good luck and prosperity to the household. The name Ong Lei literally translates to “prosperity has arrived.” And Kueh Bangkit are traditionally Nyonya cookies that were historically used as altar offerings to ancestors to spend in their afterlife, hence them being in the shape of ancient Chinese currency.

Animal and flower-shaped versions are popular today, with each having its own symbolic meaning: Goldfish means prosperity, butterfly means afterlife, peonies means faith and chrysanthemums mean fortune.

 

Chinese Lunar New Year 

A couple of traditional dishes for the Lunar New Year in China are Jiaozi (dumplings or lucky dumplings) and Yi mein (Longevity noodles).

About the Dishes and What they Represent:

These round dumplings signify family reunion as most families spend New Year's Eve together preparing them before eating them at midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth. In order to make a Jiaozi lucky, white thread or a copper/ gold coin is placed into the dumpling. The one who eats the lucky dumpling is said to be blessed with wealth in life. The dumplings should be arranged in lines instead of circles, because in a circle the dumplings mean one's life will go round in circles, never going anywhere.

Yi Mein symbolizes a wish for longevity, the length and uncut noodle preparation are also symbolic of the eater's life. And if you manage to eat your noodles without cutting or biting them, you will be blessed even more!

 

Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year)

A traditional food during the Lunar New Year in Vietnam is Banh chung (Vietnamese Square Sticky Rice Cake).

About the Dish And What it Represents:

The main ingredients are glutinous rice, pork, and green beans wrapped square in broad-blade leaves that will give the rice a green color after about 12 hours' boiling. The wrapping must be neither too tight nor too loose.

This cake symbolizes the ground expressing gratitude to the ancestors and the earth, sky. Besides, it emphasizes the important role of rice and nature in water rice culture. The process of making Banh Chung is time consuming and requires the contribution of several people. Family members often take turns to keep a watch on the fire overnight while telling each other stories about Tet of past years. For the Vietnamese, making Banh Chung is an ideal way to express gratitude to their ancestors and homeland.

Nowadays the lifestyle of modern society in the cities prevents people from preparing the cake, however the habit of worshipping the ancestors with it never changes. It is evidence of the loyalty and deep gratitude of Vietnamese people to their ancestors.

 

Losar (Tibetan New Year)

The Lunar New Year in Tibet is actually celebrated in March compared to other Asian countries that celebrate in late January to February. And it is one of the lesser known Lunar New Year celebrations, so we hope to bring light to one of their amazing traditional dishes: Guthuk (A hand rolled noodle soup with broth)

About the Dish And What it Represents:

In addition to normal ingredients for the rolled noodle soup and broth, Guthuk features nine large dough balls that contain items! Some examples of the items found in these dough balls are sugar cube, raw bean, a small piece of wood, wool string, and piece of charcoal, folded paper, pebble, hot chili pepper, cotton ball and so much more.

The stuffing is essential to the dough balls as each bears a special meaning and are said to predict the fortune of the one who gets it. Some symbolize luck while others symbolize different personalities.

Some examples of the item meanings are: Wool symbolizing good-heartedness, charcoal represents meanness, chili means one who speaks harshly, wool stands for kind-heartedness, inward woven thread meaning a person who puts family before others and glass for a delicate person. Definitely a favorite among families!

 

Songkran (Thailand’s New Year Festival)

Welcome to Songkran, the festival of moving forward. Known for the fun setting in which people douse each other with water. Songkran's focus at the heart is to honor the values of family, society, and religion. 

This three day long new year celebration starts off on April 13th with cleansing literally and mentally to start fresh for the new year. April 14th brings attention to the family with food preparations and offerings. Finally on April 15th the focus is on religion.

 

Two well known dishes during this season are Khao Chae and Mango Sticky Rice.

About the Dish And What it Represents:

 Khao Chae: A Dish Royale

With Khao Chae having been created as a dish for the gods and more modernly for royalty. It is a jasmine rice dish that was soaked in floral water served with numerous sides. The significance of the water in this dish is to cleanse all past years misfortunes and water on its own is an important part of the festival.

Mango Sticky Rice

As a sweet dessert to top things off Mango sticky rice is served as ripe for the season fruit with coconut milk rice mixture that will have your taste buds in love with the savory flavor. The reason behind this dessert is simply for the fact that the mangoes are at its sweetest during the festival and have become a staple during this time. 

End Summary

There are so many unique and culturally rich ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Even if you aren't Asian, you can still celebrate the Lunar New Year as long as you understand the history, culture and the symbolism behind such an integral Asian holiday. We hope this has helped to give you some ideas to try with your family and that you have learned something new!

AsianMart wishes you a Lunar New Year/ Year of the Tiger that is blessed with much prosperity and good fortune!

 

 

 

Important Sources to Note: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsagaan_Sar
https://www.zendmentravel.com/mongolian-lunar-new-year-food/ 
https://www.universalcompassion.org/event/tibetan-losar-new-year-2022/ 
https://tnp.org/vegetarian-guthuk-soup-recipe-for-tibetan-new-year/ 
https://simplytibetan.com/2012/02/19/guthuk/
https://mongoliansecrethistory.mn/mongolian-national-new-year-tsagaan-sar/ 
https://www.discovermongolia.mn/blogs/tsagaan-sar-a-national-holiday-of-mongolia 
https://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Culture/view?articleId=132527 
https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/chinese-new-year-food.htm 
https://www.thespruceeats.com/symbolic-chinese-new-years-recipes-4136953 
https://www.gadventures.com/blog/origins-food-we-love-dumplings-during-lunar-new-year/ 
https://en.nhandan.vn/culture/item/3153702-banh-chung-the-soul-of-vietnamese-new-year.html 
https://honeykidsasia.com/chinese-new-year-in-singapore/ 
https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_948__2009-01-02.html#:~:text=Special%20food%20offerings%20such%20as,of%20the%20Kitchen%20God's%20statue. 
https://www.tibettravel.org/tibetan-festivals/tibetan-new-year-eve.html 
https://www.tibettravel.org/tibetan-festivals/tibetan-new-year.html 
https://www.lasinfoniadelreyhotel.com/guide/detail/203/Vietnamese_Traditional_Tet_Holiday_Foods.html 
https://lithub.com/cooking-thit-kho-and-remembering-what-it-means-to-be-vietnamese/ 
https://www/novotelbkk.com/songkran/what-to-eat-during-songkran/ 
http://www/tatnews.org/2021/03/thailands-songkran-festival-its-origins-history-and-mordern-day-observance/ 
https://www/thaiembassy.sg/events/songkran-festival 
https://www.thaiembassy.sg/events/songkran-festival 
http://fahthaimag.com/khao-chae-dishes/ 
https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/mango-sticky-rice-this-classic-thai-dessert-screams-summer-recipe-inside-2234741#:~:text=although%20it%20originated%20in%20Thailand,and%20sugar%20or%20palm%20sugar.



 

 

 

 

 

 

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