Happy Chinese New Year — Let’s Horse Around

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Another Chinese New Year is upon us, my tenth time celebrating the Spring Festival, and before I huddle down and brace for the bombastic bombtastic barrage, I figured I’d share a few links from around the web to help you navigate and enjoy the galloping in of the Year of the Horse.

春节快乐 - Year of the Horse

Food

No CNY is complete without a few plates of jiǎozi, particularly if you’re in the North. And while you can certainly just hop down to the supermarket and pick up a package of frozen dumplings, making your own is a whole lot more rewarding.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have Chinese in-laws to lend a hand, constructing the suckers can be a bit of a challenge. Jen at Tiny Urban Kitchen has a great step-by-step for making them, and if you’re feeling extra ambitious, check out the following video via FOODragon that outlines the different dumpling wrapping techniques:

Of course, if you’re down south, you’re more likely to be expecting nian gao; in which case you’ll want to check out WikiHow’s “How to Make Chinese New Year Cake Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)“.

Traditions

In a post entitled “Five Spring Festival Traditions You’ve Never Heard Of“, GoChengdoo spells out a handful of Spring Festival traditions you may not be familiar with. A taster:

You may know 元宵节 (yuánxiāojié/Lantern Festival)
The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th of the first lunar month. Old traditions for this day including eating sweet glutinous-rice balls called yuanxiao or tangyuan, going to lantern displays at local parks, and watching performances such as dragon dances or stilt walking.

But do you know this?
Young people in suburbs and the countryside have fun on the day of the Lantern Festival by stealing vegetables from nearby fields. The activity, called “stealing the green” (偷青), was, in more conservative days, a good chance to make friends with people of the opposite gender. The “thieves” often steal firewood too, in order to cook their “trophies” in the field like a picnic. The belief goes that the harder the farmers curse, the better the luck that befalls the thieves.

Also check out the site’s “the Beauty and Subtlety of the Chinese couplet” for an in depth article about the tacky banners surrounding your neighbour’s door.

If you’re looking for more information about the holiday and traditions surrounding it, be sure to give our “Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) Explained” page a read, or see this infographic produced by Barrington Freight.

Arts & Entertainment

Jeremiah over at Jottings from the Granite Studio directed me to a tweet from the one and only Dashan that left me with less than my regular absolute apathy eager enthusiasm to watch CCTV’s annual gala:

So, instead, lets all sit back and enjoy a bit of vintage Dashan:

The clip is from Mark Rowswell’s first appearance on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 1998. The skit is called “A Stamp” and also features Pang Changjiang and Qi Hui.

And while both Jeremiah and Dashan aren’t anticipating great things from the show, the former was kind enough to list out a few celebrity “Horses” for our pub quiz pleasure:

sean-connery-y-harrison-fordFamous celebrity horses include John Travolta, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and Sean Connery (the latter two once played father and son despite being only 12 years apart in age). Horse is also a great year for left-handed guitarists with both Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix being born in the year of the horse 1942.

How about female vocalists? Barbra, Aretha, and Ella –three singers who need only their first names–all born in the year of the horse.

Staying musical for a moment but delving a bit further back: Bernstein? Chopin? Puccini? Vivaldi? Yep, all Horses.

Three US Presidents–Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Theodore Roosevelt–were horses but the only one worth caring about is Teddy. Naturally, the leader of the Rough Riders was born in the year of the horse.

in the literary world, E.E. Cummings was a horse, as was Samuel Beckett and also Aldous Huxley

A painting of a horse? Edgard Degas, Jean Renoir, and Rembrandt–all horses.

Superstition

No informing James Randi on me for including this, but for the astrology lovers out there The World of Chinese has a comprehensive post covering all the magic mumbo-jumbo that the year of the (blue/green) horse brings with it. A sampling:

Photo credit: TWOC.
Photo credit: TWOC.
In order for “the Green Horse” to be kind and friendly to you and your family, you should put out a wooden horse toy as the symbol of this year somewhere on the table, or any kind of horse toy for that matter, as well as a bowl of oat meal, water and apples. Your table has to have a lot of salads and dishes that contain a lot of grass. Less meat is better, NO HORSE OR DONKEY MEAT ON THE TABLE!!! That will just wash your luck away for the rest of the year.

Suitable colors of the year – green, blue or turquoise. During Spring Festival Eve you shouldn’t wear anything in orange, yellow or any other acidic colors.

The dress for the Year of the Horse has to be unusual. The Horse is an elegant and aristocratic animal, and, respectively, your style of dress has to match (without looking too sexy, vulgar or cheap). Looking classy and being natural has never failed anyone. The same goes for make up: natural or no make-up preferred.

A pony tail or letting your hair down will be a perfect addition to wooden/timber accessories, high heels and your Horse Year’s outfit is ready.

I think I’ll leave things there. If you have any other recommended reading or resources regarding Chinese New Year, please feel free to share in the comments. All the best from us here at Lost Laowai in the Year of the Horse … and just remember, no matter how noisy it gets, how crowded the streets and transit are, no long faces.

Oh, alright, one more link.


Photo Credit: Horse in the tub photo by Andy Morris

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