CHINESE NEW YEAR
Chinese people all over the world will celebrate the year of the Dog. People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. If you were born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982 or 1994, you were born in the Year of the Dog. If you were born in the year of the dog, you have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people’s confidence because you know how to keep secrets. Dog people make good leaders. But Dog People can also be terribly stubborn, a bit eccentric and can have a sharp tongue.
As the Chinese enter a New Year they must put the past behind them. Houses are cleaned and freshly painted, all debts must be paid, new clothing is purchased, and even hair styles are changed to symbolize new life and a new beginning. Homes are decorated with flowers and filled with signs painted red to represent vitality and gold to ensure wealth and good fortune. Each home will have a feast on New Year’s Eve to honor their ancestors. An alter will be built and filled with food and burning incense to insure good luck from the gods for the coming ear. At the stroke of midnight, the sky will erupt with fireworks as everyone goes into the streets to wish neighbors, friends and strangers a Happy New Year. The next morning, gifts are exchanged and the feasting begins again, lasting until nightfall. Shark Fin or Bird’s Nest Soup, fried crab legs, steamed mussels, barbequed pork, chicken with oyster sauce, steamed vegetable buns, assorted fried rice, and steamed fish with black bean sauce are but a few of the delectable dishes offered in abundance.
Superstition dictates the inclusion of black moss seaweed to increase wealth, dried or fried bean curd to fulfill happiness, fish to insure togetherness, and uncut noodles to bring long life. Marvelous sweet desserts, such as almond cookies, egg tarts, and steamed almond sponge cake are served with platters of fresh fruit and lichee nuts. And, at the end, the Kumquat will be presented as the most important tradition of all.
Kumquats have been cultivated for centuries in China and Japan, but were not introduced into Europe until about 150 years ago. The word comes from Cantonese, meaning ‘golden orange”. In China, kumquats are called “Gam Gat Sue”. Gam rhymes with the Chinese word for gold. Gat rhymes with the word for luck. The tiny green leaves symbolize wealth. The shape of the kumquat is their symbol of unity and perfection. Everyone who eats the fruit will be insured good fortune, prosperity and happiness.
The two most common varieties of kumquat are the oval Nagami and the round Meiwa. The Nagami, or oval quat, has a sweet skin but a sour flesh. The round Meiwa is delectably sweet on the outside with a pleasing tangy flavor to its flesh. Both are excellent accompaniments to fish, poultry and sweet potatoes, and make marvelous marmalade and pies and even breads. Cut a few branches for decoration on your table.
Kumquats are so easy to grow in Florida and the fruit so abundant that it would seem every home should have at least one tree to ensure the good luck of the Chinese.