Cristina Tung Ziarrusta, born to a Basque mother and a Manchurian father, has worked as a flight attendant for the past five years, and in corporate aviation for the previous ten. She’s lived in England, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Now she’s back home, and divides her time between London and Bilbao.
A new entry by Cristina Tung Ziarrusta for our Traveling Basques section. This young Basque woman has had an intense career for the past fifteen years flying all over the world.
A long-time reader of the blog, she’s decided, and we’re thrilled she has, to share some of her traveling experiences with us.
In this second article, she talks about the Chinese New Year, year 4716 on that calendar, and talks to us about some of the dishes they make for their New Year’s Eve celebrations, full of symbolism and significance
Chinese New Year, the symbolism behind their traditional dishes
By Cristina Tung
The countdown to the new lunar year begins for all Chinese kitchens around the world; typically, families gather together for the family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve and a big homemade meal is prepared. Every dish has special significance because of the way the Chinese word for it sounds like. Just as in our culture, recipes are passed down from generation to generation. This year, Chinese New Year starts on February the 16th, and the festivities will last for around 2 weeks.
Here is a short list of the symbolic dishes served during New Year:
- Peking Duck. Very popular, and a symbol of fidelity; by the mid-20th century, it became a national symbol of China.
- Chicken. Roasted or braised, served whole with the head and feet still attached, for unity between the families; its wings represent the ability to fly high.
- Fish. Which is homophonic with “plenty” or “profit”—it can be cooked different ways, and also served whole.
- Lobster. also known as “dragon prawn”. Usually steamed with garlic and onions.
- Sixi wanzi or lion’s head meatballs. A staple during the reunion meal, seen as a sign of good times ahead—the lion represents strength and power in Chinese culture.
- Nian gao or rice cakes, both savoury and sweet. For increasing prosperity and health.
- Dumplings. Sshaped like gold ingots, traditionally eaten at midnight. Legend has it that the more dumplings you eat, the more money you can make the next year.
- Shui guo, mandarin oranges or tangerines. Are commonly displayed, eaten and given as gifts as they indicate luck and wealth respectively.
China is the top producer of tea in the world, and tea accompanies all meals even on New Year’s day, but of course, every household will have wine on the table as well, alcohol is believed to protect from bad luck. The most common is white wine or baijiu, usually made from fermented sorghum, stronger than ours and more similar to vodka. The younger crowd tend to go for the world-famous Tsingtao beer.
Gan bei! Cheers! and Gong hey fat choy! Happy New Year!
Photos from China by Cristina Tung