We just celebrated the beginning of 2016 but there is another New Year’s celebration soon to come. The Chinese New Year is February 8th, which is fast approaching. This is the year of the red monkey! I just love Chinese New Year traditions. Char had a very close friend who would share the festive celebrations with her and I’ve been trying to teach Kat all about it. The decorations, food, and tea are amazing.
Homes are cleaned and decorated, gifts are exchanged, and delicious foods are prepared and served. High quality teas are served by themselves, so they can be enjoyed without any other flavors interfering.
On the first day of the New Year festivities, there is an important tea ritual that can be performed. A pu-erh or oolong tea is chosen and served to the eldest family member. This individual enjoys a sip of tea, and then passes it to the next eldest family member. The tea bowl gets passed along down to the youngest member of the family. Prayers and blessings are passed down along with the cup of tea. The generations are connected in this special ritual. Assorted sweets are served on the ‘tray of togetherness’ where all family members share delicacies to start the new year. In certain parts of China a sweet tea will be served to also symbolize a sweet life. Red envelopes containing monetary gifts are presented to the children and unmarried family members. I just love the colors, tastes, and aromas of this holiday.
A popular food to enjoy is the beautiful tea egg. I mentioned this eggs once before in our tea-infused brunch post. You’ll find a recipe there as well. Making tea eggs takes time, but it’s a simple process and yields delicious, artistic results.
Char’s friend used to give her a gift of a superb dong ding oolong every year during the lunar new year. It’s traditional to give tea and sweets as gifts. I just love dong ding oolong, it is sweet, nutty, with hints of fruit and a roasted comforting flavor. I’d steep this tea for Kat every day if she’d let me! It’s especially warming in the colder months.
The lantern festival at the end of the 15 days of celebrations is quite a breathtaking display. The air is simply electric during this festival! Floating and hanging lanterns, fireworks, and dragon dances illuminate the night. Sweet glutinous rice flour dumplings are served to close the festivities with a hope for a sweet year to come.
Try to steep up a pu-erh or oolong tea in a gaiwan if you can. That’s a traditional way to prepare the teas. Here’s to the year of the monkey, and I look forward to connecting with all of you in the tea-filled year to come!