For many, the Lunar New Year is one of the most important holiday celebrations. It is recognized as a time to gather together with friends and family to celebrate a fresh start. At Lineage Ceramics, our foundations are built on spending time together over a meal, and the nostalgia of growing up in a ceramics workshop in the Chinese countryside.
2022 is the ‘Year of the Tiger,’ and perhaps ferocity and bravery are exactly what we need to set our goals and create a life focused on the important things: making memories, living life without abandon, and in true Lineage fashion - being elegantly efficient in the kitchen.
In every country that celebrates the Lunar New Year you’ll find a variety of spirited traditions that give a nod to each culture and pay homage to their lineage. Today on the blog we want to share how three cultures use the Lunar New Year to celebrate gathering, along with the culinary offerings that are traditionally prepared.
Chinese New Year: chūnjié (春节)
Growing up in Teoswa, Lineage Ceramics founder Shuobi Wu fondly remembers his favourite memory about Chinese New Year.
“The day before the Chinese New Year, we will make a whole table of traditional food as our offerings to our ancestors who have been guiding and guarding the family. Teochew Png Kueh (Rice Peach Cake), Tho Bao (A sweet taro bao in peach shape), marinated geese, fish, pork belly, assorted fruits that always include the local tangerines, and sweet rice cake. What’s amazing is you’ll see every dish will also be marked with an edible red-pink ink that assembles the red colour of new year. The Png Kueh, especially, is itself a savory pink food heaven. Our aunt still makes it for the whole family every year, but I always love that special mold we use to create this unique peach shape. The mold will also carve out line patterns that form a triangular fortress with the letter “囍” (luck and fortune) in the middle. You can just feel the process of uncupping them one by one onto the steamer really satisfying.”
When celebrating Chinese New Year, food traditions are incredibly important. Many households will serve two whole fish, saving one for leftovers to represent abundance in the new year. In addition, a whole chicken is also served to symbolize prosperity. Spring Rolls are usually added to the menu to embody wealth with their resemblance to gold bars.
And one of our favourite parts of Chinese New Year celebrations is putting together a ‘Tray of Togetherness.’ This tray features an array of sweets and is used to welcome families into our homes. The treats offer wishes for a sweet year, with specific sweets representing prosperity, longevity, and hope.
Korean New Year: Seollal (설날)
In Korea, Seollal is a time for remembering ancestors, gathering with family and friends, and of course - great food. Sweet and savoury, one of the most popular dishes served is called Tteokguk, a traditional Korean soup made with rice cakes, a must-have food that is a symbol of turning another year. Often young children are promised to grow another year older, but only if they finish their tteokguk! There are many varieties of this dish that are created by each household, with different flavourings.
Other incredible dishes include dumplings (such as kimchi mandu) and Jeon, fritters stuffed with all kinds of delicious fish, seafood, and vegetables. The feasts that are created in celebration of the New Year in Korea ensure that no one would leave your house hungry.
Vietnamese New Year: Tết Festival
Tết Festival is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture, spanning over a week of celebrations and renowned for its extraordinary culinary creations. The exuberant festivities pour into the streets to mark the coming of spring and the promise of a new year. Tết is celebrated as a time of renewal, and an occasion to pay homage to your lineage. Peach and apricot blossoms are sprinkled throughout the home to represent prosperity and hope.
The cuisine served during Tết Festival is varied in taste and texture. Each has a significant meaning to the Vietnamese and is carefully prepared in the days leading up to the beginning of the New Year. Bánh chưng and bánh tét are exclusive to Tết Festival, made with tightly packed sticky rice and wrapped in banana leaves to keep the insides fresh for the entire celebration. Often a meat or bean filling is included in bánh chưng and bánh tét. Sticky rice, xôi, is a staple for every spread and includes a variety of ingredients to transform it from meal to meal.
We hope that this blog has inspired you to infuse some new traditions and cuisines into your Lunar New Year celebrations. For more international influence, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media.