This Sunday night is Chinese New Year’s Eve, marking the beginning of the most important holiday for Chinese around the world. Though celebrations last about a week, traditionally it is a 15-day holiday during which drums and gongs are beaten, lanterns and firecrackers lit, and paper cutouts and calligraphy decorate doors.
From Sydney to Shanghai to San Francisco, spectators will flood cities watching parades of elaborate floats, dancers, acrobats and beauty contestant winners snaking their way through streets, celebrating the New Year.
Unlike the Western calendar, which ushers in the New Year on Jan. 1, the Chinese New Year coordinates with the lunar calendar, falling on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Therefore the New Year may be celebrated in January or February, and not always on the same day.
Each lunar new year is represented by one of the twelve creatures of the Chinese Zodiac — 2013 being the zodiacal Year of the Snake, leaving 2012’s Year of the Dragon behind. According to various websites, people born in snake years (1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013 ) like to live well, loving books, music, clothes and fine food. Although I was born in the Year of the Sheep — characteristic traits being laid back and somewhat shy — I admire epicurean snake folk, enigmatic people that are terrific guests at a dinner party.
Whether you were born in the Year of the Snake or not, food, family and tradition play an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations. One tradition may include offering a sacrifice to the Kitchen God, to ensure he gives a good report on the family’s behavior when he returns to heaven. Indeed, many families have a poster of the Kitchen God in their kitchen.
I’m not of Asian ancestry, but I respect this tradition, and thought an appropriate dish to offer up the Kitchen God would be a Sticky Rice Ball. Rice, particularly sticky (glutinous) rice, is an important component of so many traditional Chinese meals. According to Wikipedia, in China, glutinous rice has been grown for at least 2,000 years, and legend has it was used to make the mortar in the construction of the Great Wall of China. In Chinese culture, the circle stands for fulfillment, oneness, unity, and togetherness. I hope The Kitchen God will appreciate my circular mass of glutinous rice, of which I included a special hidden treasure of shrimp robed in spices.
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