Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Chinese New Year - the Year of the Earth Rat

My dear friends Zhangpeng and Pan Ling are celebrating their Chinese New Year - the Year of the Earth Rat.

February 7, 2008 - January 25, 2009

The Year of the Rat, the first in the cycle of the Chinese twelve yearly animal signs, is a time of hard work, activity and renewal. The Rat year is also said to be a good year to begin a new job, get married or make a fresh start.

Today Zhangpeng and Pan Ling presented me with a plate of round dumplings they made to celebrate the beginning of this New Year of their Chinese Lunar Calendar. Zhangpeng explained to me that the dumplings are called jiaozi in Chinese and that they are one of the traditional foods eaten during their New Year's celebration.

Chinese dumplings symbolize hope for prosperity in the coming year. Filled with meat, the round dumplings are a sign of family reunion. In northern China, where Pan Ling is from, families traditionally spend New Year's Eve together preparing the dumplings, which are then eaten at midnight. A coin is often hidden in one of the dumplings and it is believed that the person finding the coin when eating the dumplings will be blessed with exceptionally good fortune during the New Year.

Traditionally served with hoisin sauce, hot Chinese mustard and toasted sesame seeds, none of which I happen to have on hand, I try these dumplings with some of the mustards I brought back from my last trip to Leavenworth.

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