Lunar New Year, Year of the Boar

05 February 2019

 
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Every year, I celebrate the Chinese, or lunar, new year. I send out cards depicting that year’s specific animal. I put up a banner in my house. At midnight, I would watch the New Year episode of Fruits Basket. And for many years I would make steamed red bean buns and New Year soba noodles. The lunar New Year is an event that I have greatly enjoyed making my own special occasion for many years now, but this year, I thought I might share it with others.

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The decorations.

Six years ago, I created a banner depicting the kanji and hiragana for “akemashiteomedeto” from gold and red paper. These characters are strung together with ribbon, and pinned up along a wall, banister, or other area where it can be seen, but not be in the way of day to day functionality.

This year, I gathered smooth stones from the river near where I live, and painted the Chinese zodiac animals, plus the cat, like in Fruits Basket. I also created a single pedestal. Being the year of the boar, the boar stone got to sit on the pedestal, with all the other animals surrounding him. (Even the cat.)

I created a chain of glowing paper lanterns, by folding origami paper balloons, and attaching each one to a bulb on a string of Christmas lights. This string of glowing paper lanterns I wrapped around the branches I had used as Christmas decorations. Alongside the lanterns, white origami sakura blossoms adorn the branches.

The food.

When I had to start embracing some dietary restrictions in my life, I had to change out the old trusty soba noodles and steamed red bean buns that I used to enjoy. Unfortunately, these restrictions kept me from enjoying a New Year’s meal for a few years. So this year I was going to break that depressing streak and make something amazing. But two weeks before the lunar New Year I began a strict meal plan as part of my personal training regime, putting a halt to my New Year’s meal plan. However, I did have a chance to test a few delicious items that would go wonderfully in any lunar New Year’s meal.

These delicious pot stickers from Vegan Richa are simple to make, once you play with the wraps a few times. I made it using the sauce from this other Vegan Richa recipe. I also made a sweet version by replacing all the filling ingredients with red bean paste, and sprinkling sesame seeds on the finished pot sticker. The cooking process remained the same, so I just cooked my sweet and savory at the same time.

I had also tested a delightful sweet and sour Asian slaw from Connoisseurus Veg, and made a batch of fried rice for good measure.

The New Year’s gifts & cards.

In Japan, gifts are traditionally given, particularly to children, on New Year’s Day. For young children, this gift will be a toy or book, but as the kids get older, they are presented otoshidama or “New Year’s Money” in hand crafted or purchased pochibukuro or small, decorated, paper envelopes. My sister has been pretty on top of teaching the kids to put money into their piggy banks, so despite them being so young, I decided to present each of them with a little otoshidama of their own this year.

I have been sending New Year’s cards for probably eight years now, but I didn’t do cards this year, and I must say, that was hard on me. Since embracing a low impact lifestyle, I couldn’t bring myself to order and send out cards this year. It was a difficult choice, one that I spent much time deliberating on, that push of tradition versus the pull of my low impact ambitions. While there is a part of me that feels that bite of sadness from “missing out on a tradition,” I’m also pleased with my decision to forgo the added waste.

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So I have to know, what unusual traditions do you have for your holidays? Like me, do you celebrate some holidays that those around you don’t celebrate? Is it a tradition you have brought over from another culture, or something that you have come up with on your own? As you can see, my New Year’s traditions are a mix of Chinese and Japanese, with a big sprinkle of my own ideas. Let’s share those traditions down in the comments, and remember, you can reply to this message.

 
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