Gung hei fat choy! ‘May the New Year bring you great health, happiness and prosperity’. – Julie Poon, co-owner/operator Hong Kong restaurant, Sault Ste. Marie.
Chinese New Year 2021 begins today, Friday February 12th, 2021, with celebrations culminating with the Lantern Festival on February 26th, 2021. Celebrations last up to 16 days, but only the first 7 days are considered a public holiday. Chinese New Year marks the transition between zodiac signs: 2021 is the year of the Ox; 2020 the year of the Rat.
2021 is ‘Year of the Ox’. The Ox represents the first year of the 12-year zodiacal cycle of the Chinese zodiac. The years of the Ox in the Chinese Horoscope are: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021.
The Ox is the second of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Ox was about to be the first to arrive, but Rat tricked Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox. Thus, Ox became the second animal.
Different characteristics are assigned to each animal, and this is traditionally used to determine fortune. The ox, for example, is associated with hard work and serenity. In Chinese culture, the Ox is a valued animal. Because of its role in agriculture, positive characteristics, such as being hardworking and honesty, are attributed to it.
The Ox is also associated with the Earthly Branch (地支 / dì zhī) Chǒu (丑) and the hours 1–3 in the morning. In the terms of yin and yang (阴阳 / yīn yáng), the Ox is Yang.
Chinese New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world. It’s the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people all over the globe.
In Sault Ste. Marie, we have a number of restaurants serving Chinese food. They are consistently among the busiest in general – In 2020 and 2021, take-out and delivery continues to be the method for exploring tasty dishes from Sault’s favourite kitchens. For Chinese New Year, one of those kitchens is on Trunk Road – Hong Kong restaurant.
Julie Poon is the fourth generation to continue the traditions of her ancestors in our community. For over 45 years, Julie has worked alongside her brother Bucky. Julie’s daughter Natalie is also part of the business. Julie and Bucky have siblings living in the Toronto area. This year, celebrations will take place remotely. What have traditionally been large family gatherings, are now re-imagined to accommodate the global pandemic.
“We all operate the business together. We have kept it in the family, which is the traditional Chinese way.” she said. “The older generation are no longer here. The younger generation are trying to keep the traditions going, just as our parents and grandparents did for Chinese New Year. We hope the next generation will remember and be able to carry it on”
“We burn incense today, and throughout the festival. Through the burning of incense we are acknowledging our ancestors – inviting them to be present with us.”
Julie Poon talked about the significance of food traditionally served during Chinese New Year. “The foods are meant to acknowledge and honour our ancestors ~ turnip cake, fish, glutenous rice cakes, chicken, citrus, long noodles, sweet rice balls and dumplings. Each food represents a wish.” she said. “Long noodles represent a long life.” Julie said that on New Year’s eve, the ‘big’ meal takes place. Friday (Feb.12,2021) would be a more vegetarian feast.
The colour red is significant because it represents luck. Red is found everywhere during Chinese New Year and other holiday celebrations and family gatherings. A red envelope is a monetary gift which is given in Chinese culture during holiday and special occasions. The red colour of the packet symbolizes good luck. Julie Poon spoke about her daughter, now in her 20’s who still looks forward to receiving a special red envelope on New Years. One more gem, is that it is traditional to wear a brand new outfit on Chinese New Year.
Wearing red is meant to bring good luck. Colours are important to Chinese culture as they are endowed with lucky meanings. Red symbolizes happiness, success and good fortune. The three main colours considered lucky in people’s daily lives as well as on special occasions are red, yellow, and green. Usually red lanterns are hung outside doors to ward off bad luck.
The Spring Festival is about embracing the new year, especially after the year we have just had Julie said. “The Chinese New Year marks the beginning of spring – the new year brings hope, luck, love and goals. It’s a time when we bring family together.This year, we can only celebrate with the people in our own household. Some of the foods we love have been unavailable this year due to supply chain problems as a result of Covid-19.”
Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. In China, you’ll hear it being called chunji (春节), or the Spring Festival. It’s still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what it brings: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts.In 2021, the Chinese zodiac predicts this to be a perfect year to focus on relationships, including friendships and loved ones. Further, this year is going to be lucky.
According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian (年). It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.
People stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and usher in good luck. The start of the Spring Festival – Lunar New Year.
The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is Canada’s national museum of immigration. The video and recipe shared in this story are part of their collection. ‘A demonstration on how to make Chinese dumplings’. yes please.
Pork, Shrimp, and Cabbage Dumpling Recipe by Joyce Liu
One whole egg
Water: 250ml (depends on the absorbance of the flour)
Pork 355 g
Green Onion: 20g
Soy sauce: 2 tablespoon
Cooking alcohol: 1 tablespoon
Salt: as you like
Black Pepper: as you like
White pepper: as you like
Chinese Thirteen Spice (Five Spice): as you like
Sugar: a little
Sesame oil: 1 tablespoon
Black vinegar: 2 tbsp
Soy sauce: 0.5 tbsp
For best results, boil according to 3 boil method: When you see the water is boiling the first time after you put the dumplings in, add a mug of cold water in. Wait for the 2nd time you see it boiling, add another mug of cold water. When you see the water boiling the 3rd time, your dumplings are ready! Serve.