Celebrate the Chinese New Year in Jacksonville!

Join us on Feb. 10th for a Chinese Dumpling Festival

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The Year of the Pig

With chubby faces and big ears, pigs represent wealth and good fortune in Chinese tradition. In 2019, the Chinese New Year brings the Year of the Pig with Earth as the corresponding element. The Year of the Earth Pig heralds a prosperous and rewarding year, with a cautionary to remain realistic and level-headed as you journey through 2019.

As the twelfth of all Chinese zodiac animals, legends differ as to what made the Pig last in line. Most legends explain the order of the zodiacs would be decided by which guests arrived to Jade Emperor’s party first. One myth claims the pig overslept and was therefore the last to arrive. Another explains a wolf destroyed the pig’s house, delaying him as he tried to repair it. Despite the pig’s tardiness, those born in the Year of the Pig are considered to have beautiful personalities and be realistic individuals.

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Chinese New Year Events

Although Chinese New Year’s Day lands on February 5th, celebrations start as early as January 28th and continue until February 15th.

Preparations for Chinese New Year begin on January 28th, with the start of Little Year. January 28th is a day of memorial and prayer. Activities include cleaning the house to sweep away bad luck or misfortune from the previous year and praying to the Kitchen God.

A treat called zaotang, also known as “The Kitchen God’s Candy”, is made of malt and can only be enjoyed during this time of year. Other common Little Year foods are wheat cakes and tofu soup. At Leaf & Bean, we make our organic tofu by following a traditional Chinese recipe to keep the preservative-free integrity and wonderful flavor in dishes like tofu soup.

On February 4th, families celebrate Chinese New Year’s Eve with a reunion dinner. This dinner is the most important meal of the year and includes everyone’s favorite foods for the feast. After dinner, children receive red envelopes filled with coins or paper money to ward off bad spirits. Together, everyone stays up late waiting for the New Year to arrive.

On the morning of February 5th, the sound of firecrackers fill the street to welcome the New Year. This day begins the Spring Festival, with warm greetings and celebrations all day long. Any cleaning of the house is forbidden on New Year’s Day because good fortune cannot be swept away. With no chores allowed, all attention is focused on loved ones and merriment – exactly as the holidays should be!

Spring Festival continues through February 15th with unique traditions and celebrations each day. The Spring Festival activities bring together family, attract good fortune and celebrate the year to come.

Chinese New Year 2019 Gold Coins

Legends and Expansion

While it is unclear exactly when Chinese New Year originated, it is said to have had its start during the Shang Dynasty. Legends say it began with a fight against a mythical beast called “Year.” This beast had the body of an ox, the head of a lion and was believed to live in the sea. On New Years Eve, “Year” would come out of the ocean to harm the Chinese people and their animals.

Have you ever wondered why the color red is so prominent in Chinese New Year Celebrations? According to this legend, people discovered the mythical beast feared the color red, fire and loud noises. Red decor, lanterns and fireworks may have began as a defense against the ominous “Year,” but are still key elements of Chinese New Year celebrations today.

While the legend never mentioned a mythical beast in the United States, today we are lucky to find the Chinese New Year celebrated across America. According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, 2.7 million people in the U.S. identify as Chinese, creating the largest Asian group in the country.

As far back as the 1600s, history shows the presence of the Chinese in North, Central and South America. In the 19th Century, many Chinese immigrants settled in the United States. With them they brought Chinese traditions and events –including the wonderful celebrations of the Chinese New Year.

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Dumplings: The Food of Family & Good Fortune

Dumplings can be found at many Chinese celebrations, but they play a special role during Chinese New Year. These carefully crafted bites filled with various meats and veggies are so much more than a tasty appetizer.

In Chinese, “dumplings” sounds like a word that translates to “the exchange between the old and the new year.” The wrapping and eating of dumplings on New Years Eve is believed to send away the old and welcome the new.

Typically, dumplings are filled with Chinese cabbage, green onion, pork or shrimp. It is possible to have any type of meat or vegetable that suits your palette. However, in certain areas the different fillings have specific significance. In the Suzhou province, egg fillings mean wealth and fortune. Some people will even put an actual coin in one of the dumplings, bringing good luck to whoever finds it (although admittedly, not the tastiest dumpling.)  

Naturally, eating dumplings brings plenty of joy. Did you know making them by hand can be just as fulfilling? In Chinese tradition, the process of making dumplings is a special family activity. In preparation for Chinese New Year, all members of the family participate in wrapping dumplings together to bring fortune and love to the home.

In honor of the Chinese New Year (and the deliciousness of dumplings), we are inviting the community to celebrate a bite of China with us. On February 10th, join Leaf & Bean for our Chinese Dumplings Festival! Learn to wrap dumplings, choose your filling and enjoy your creations. Space is limited, so don’t hesitate to RSVP below to ensure your spot. We look forward to celebrating with you!