Chinese Holidays and Culture
Some of the Chinese holidays date back to thousands of years ago, and they are considered an important part of Chinese culture. These holidays originated from mythology and harvest celebrations, and they are still being celebrated by most Chinese people today. The dates of Chinese holidays are set according to the Chinese lunar calendar, with the exception of a few holidays which follow the Agricultural Calendar.
History of the Chinese Lunar New Year
The most significant Chinese holiday is the Spring Festival, which is also widely known as the Chinese New Year. It is believed that this holiday dates back to about 2600 BC, when the first cycle of the Chinese zodiac was introduced by Emperor Huang Ti. According to legend, just before Buddha departed from the world, he had ordered all the animals to appear before him, but only 12 animals showed up. He rewarded these animals by dedicating a year to each one of them, according to the order in which they arrived. One complete zodiac cycle runs for a total of 60 years, and it consists of five 12-year cycles.
Chinese Zodiac Signs
The Chinese believe that those who are born under the same zodiac sign will share certain personality traits. Here are personality traits that are associated with each zodiac sign.
Positive traits: Charismatic, tenacious, meticulous, sensitive, hardworking, shrewd, sociable, and artistic.
Negative traits: Manipulative, self-destructive, scheming, ruthless, stubborn, and over-ambitious.
Positive traits: Calm, dependable, hardworking, patient, logical, modest, and determined.
Negative traits: Materialistic, demanding, obstinate, and narrow-minded.
Positive traits: Rebellious, unpredictable, passionate, powerful, bold, sincere, and generous.
Negative traits: Impatient, reckless, selfish, obstinate, unpredictable, and aggressive.
Positive traits: Kind, friendly, sensitive, elegant, artistic, cautious, meticulous, tender, and flexible.
Negative traits: Self-indulgent, opportunistic, moody, and superficial.
Positive traits: Strong, confident, dignified, noble, intellectual, pioneering, loyal, and decisive.
Negative traits: Arrogant, tyrannical, violent, brash, intolerant, and demanding.
Positive traits: Wise, mystical, soft-spoken, graceful, creative, shrewd, cautious, calm, consistent, and purposeful.
Negative traits: Hedonistic, doubtful, cold, loner, possessive, and distrustful.
Positive traits: Flexible, down-to-earth, intelligent, open-minded, intelligent, popular, perceptive, and cheerful.
Negative traits: Childish, arrogant, rude, stubborn, gullible, and anxious.
Positive traits: Sincere, compassionate, artistic, mild-mannered, generous, understanding, peaceful, determined, and righteous.
Negative traits: Indecisive, moody, weak-willed, over-sensitive, and pessimistic.
Positive traits: Creative, quick-witted, self-assured, intellectual, dignified, polite, inquisitive, flexible, and sociable.
Negative traits: Vain, snobbish, jealous, cunning, selfish, reckless, and suspicious.
Positive traits: Neat, decisive, confident, practical, alert, perfectionist, responsible, and scientific.
Negative traits: Critical, egoistical, opinionated, abrasive, and over-zealous.
Positive traits: Intelligent, loyal, honest, attractive, friendly, sensitive, affectionate, and practical.
Negative traits: Lazy, judgmental, obstinate, quarrelsome, and cynical.
Positive traits: Patient, honest, sincere, sturdy, calm, intelligent, passionate, and understanding.
Negative traits: Self-indulgent, materialistic, gullible, and dependent.
Chinese Food and Recipes
1) Pork Dumplings
Dumplings are a popular New Year dish for the Chinese, and they symbolize family reunion.
100 3 1/2-square-inch wonton wrappers
1 3/4 pounds ground pork
1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger root
4 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 egg (beaten)
5 cups shredded Chinese cabbage
Mix the pork, garlic, ginger, green onion, cabbage, egg, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large bowl. Put one teaspoon of the mix on a wonton wrapper. Make the edges moist with water, and fold into a triangle. Seal the filling by rolling the edges. Then, steam the dumplings for around 15 to 20 minutes in a metal steamer, and they are ready to be served.
2) Spicy Orange Beef
This dish is often served during a Chinese New Year dinner because it represents prosperity.
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 pound of round steak (thin strips)
1/4 cup of orange peel (slivers)
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 cup of beef broth
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of sherry
1/4 cup of orange marmalade
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
Heat oil in wok with medium heat. Add 1/3 of beef strips at a time, and have them stir-fried for three minutes. Remove the strips and set them aside on a plate laid with paper towels. Place the strips in the wok again, add orange peel, ginger, and garlic, and stir fry for one minute. Mix broth, cornstarch, sherry, marmalade, sherry, and red pepper in a bowl, and pour the mixture into the wok. Let it boil and cook for one minute before serving.
3) Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon black soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons black tea leaves
2 pods star anise
1 cinnamon stick (2 inches)
1 tablespoon tangerine zest
Place eggs and one teaspoon of salt in a sauce pan with cold water. Cover and boil, and then, lower heat and let it simmer for around 20 minutes. Remove the eggs and let them cool. After they are cool, crack the shells with the back part of a spoon. Place three cups of water, black soy sauce, soy sauce, tea leaves, salt, cinnamon stick, star anise, and tangerine zest in a sauce pan and boil. Then, lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 3 hours. Remove the mixture and add eggs. Wait for eight hours before serving.
4) Sticky Cakes
It is believed that serving sticky cakes during Chinese New Year will prevent the family from experiencing bad luck in the coming year.
1 tablespoon flour
2 eggs (separate whites and yolks)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups glutinous rice flour
1/3 cup milk
1 cup Chinese dried fruits (diced)
1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
Set aside a greased loaf pan that measures 4 by 8 inches. Then, have the egg whites beaten until they are stiff. Mix the sugar and butter, add egg yolks, and mix them thoroughly. After that, add 1/3 of glutinous rice flour and continue mixing. Add the remaining milk and rice flour alternately. Stir in the dried fruits and walnuts, and add the egg whites. Have them folded into the cake batter, and then, pour the batter into the pan. Steam for approximately one hour, and let it cool.
Additional Chinese Holidays
Qing Ming Jie: This holiday takes place around the 5th of April of the western calendar, and the Chinese people observe the occasion by cleaning the graves of their ancestors.
Dragon Boat Festival: Occurs on the 5th of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, and it is celebrated with dragon boat races and the eating of zongzi. It is held to commemorate the death of famous poet Qu Yuan.
Mid-Autumn Festival: Takes place on the 15th of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. The Chinese people eat mooncake and have dinner with their families on this day.
Winter Solstice Festival: This festival is also referred to as the Chinese Thanksgiving Day, and it is celebrated on the 7th of the 11th month of the lunar calendar. Celebrants have will eat jiuniang and tangyuan as well as worship their ancestors and hold family gatherings.