Chinese New Year Meals
One of my favorite holiday meals is during Chinese New Year. Each year around January or February is Chinese New Year. The date of Chinese New Year changes every year. This year it was January 31st and it's the year of the horse. On New Year's Eve my family gathers together at my grandma's house and we have a big celebration and feast. Around this time my family always has these trays of little snacks such as peanuts, pistachios, and candled fruit melons. The tray has eight compartments, the lucky number in Chinese culture. The snacks are meant for guests to munch on throughout their stay. Whenever I would see these trays as a kid I knew it was around the time of Chinese New Year. The dishes we eat on New Year's Eve always consist of long noodles to symbolize a long life span. There is always fish to symbolize wealth. Since my family is from Taiwan we cook traditional Taiwanese cuisine as well. There is always rice and usually soup for after the meal. For dessert we eat niangao which is a cake like dessert made of glutinous rice. Another tradition is the giving and receiving of red envelopes or hongbao in Mandarin with money inside for good luck.
Comment from Martha:
Anthony's post is quite vivid. I've been to a few Chinese New Year's celebrations (probably not too authentic, since a Jewish UB professor organized them, but he is a serious student of Chinese food and always hired a Chinese restaurant for the occasion, and let the chefs dictate the menu choices). I was always amazed by the variety and number of the dishes served. No matter if I ate nothing all day before the dinner, and no matter how small the portions I took, I was always too full to eat more before the midpoint of the meal. And I LOVED the food. The kind hosts of the restaurant would hastily explain each fabulous dish as they served it, so I know we had the lucky snacks, the long noodles, and the fish that Anthony mentions. Not sure about the dessert, because I never had enough stamina to eat it.