Hakkasan Restaurant » Year of the Sheep http://hakkasan.com Hakkasan Restaurant serves Michelin Star awarded Cantonese Cuisine Mon, 11 Dec 2017 15:35:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Lantern Festival http://hakkasan.com/blog/lantern-festival/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/lantern-festival/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 15:09:27 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=3675 The annual Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year festivities. During the festival, people get together to celebrate the beginning of Spring by lighting lanterns, watching fireworks and eating yuanxiao (or tangyuan), sweet stuffed glutinous rice […]

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The annual Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year festivities. During the festival, people get together to celebrate the beginning of Spring by lighting lanterns, watching fireworks and eating yuanxiao (or tangyuan), sweet stuffed glutinous rice dumplings. This year the Lantern Festival falls on Thursday, 5th March.

Lanterns

The main event of the Lantern Festival is the lighting of the lanterns, and this activity originated during the reign of Emperor Hanmingdi (58-75 BC). Historically, the lanterns owned by the majority of the common people were simple with very minimal design. Only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate lanterns. However, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the most prosperous period in Chinese history, the Lantern Festival was celebrated on a much larger scale, and it is at this time that the festival evolved into a country-wide party. It is said that during the reign of Emperor Tangxuanzong, 50,000 lanterns were lit in Xian City, the capital of the Tang Dynasty.

The lanterns are almost always red, as the color is symbolic of good fortune and prosperity in China. Nowadays, the lanterns vary in shape and size, occasionally created in the form of animals, insects, flowers, people and even machines and buildings. Others depict scenes from popular stories teaching traditional values. In Taiwan, the lanterns represent brightness and birth, which is why women who want to be pregnant often walk underneath hanging lanterns while praying for a child.

Origins and customs

The festival, although not a nationwide public holiday, is one of China’s more significant dates, and it can be traced back to the Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago.

There are many alternative stories and beliefs relating to the Lantern Festival’s origins.

One story suggests that the holiday is attributed to Taiyi, the ancient god of heaven. The belief is that the God of Heaven controlled the destiny of the human world. He had sixteen dragons at his beck and call, and decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon humans. Emperor Qinshihuang, who first united China, held the first Lantern Festival to ask Taiyi for good weather and fortune.

Another common explanation for the Lantern Festival is rooted in Taoism. One story centers on the Jade Emperor, whose favorite crane flew down to Earth and was subsequently hunted and killed. The Jade Emperor was furious, and planned a firestorm as retribution. However, the emperor’s daughter was kind and warned the villagers first. A wise man from a neighbouring village suggested that the villagers hang red lanterns outside their homes, make bonfires and light firecrackers, to give the illusion that the village had already burned to the ground. On the day of retaliation, the Jade Emperor was tricked into thinking the village was ablaze, and the villagers escaped without tragedy.

Lantern riddles (cai deng mi)

An essential part of Lantern Festival celebrations include guessing lantern riddles. These riddles are attached to the lanterns and are often very challenging, some similar to English riddles and others based on the construction of Chinese characters or referring to traditional poetry. The person who answers the riddle correctly usually wins a small prize.

Yuanxiao

Throughout the festival, people eat yuanxiao (or tangyuan), and the Lantern Festival is sometimes referred to as the Yuanxiao Festival. The sticky rice flour dumplings are sweet, often stuffed with red bean paste, sesame paste or crushed peanuts. The name tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation to tuanyuan which means ‘reunion’, so people believe the dumplings signify union, harmony and happiness for the family. It is also believed that the round shape of the yuanxiao and the bowls in which they are served symbolise family togetherness, and eating the dumplings may bring happiness and good luck in the New Year.

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Chinese New Year, the Year of the Sheep http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-year-of-the-sheep/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-year-of-the-sheep/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:54:15 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=3643 Chinese New Year, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is one of the most auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar. It is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, and therefore the date differs each year. This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19th, although traditionally festivities run […]

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Chinese New Year, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is one of the most auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar. It is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, and therefore the date differs each year. This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19th, although traditionally festivities run from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival, a festival that concludes New Year, on the 15th day of the first month.

Celebrations

While Chinese New Year is celebrated across China and in many neighbouring territories such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia amongst others, regional customs and traditions concerning celebrations vary widely.

For instance, a reunion dinner known as Nian Ye Fan 年夜饭 will be held for family members on Chinese New Year’s Eve, but the food served at this meal will differ depending on where in China it is being celebrated, although most dinners will include a whole chicken, symbolising prosperity, togetherness and joy, and a whole fish, symbolising abundance of money. In fact, the Chinese phrase “may there be surplus every year” sounds the same as “may there be fish every year”.

In some countries of Southeast Asia, Chinese New Year is considered to be one of the most important holidays of the year, with the biggest celebrations taking place in Malaysia and Singapore. In Singapore there is an annual street parade, well-known for its colorful floats and performances. Similarly, the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong draw many a visitor – local and tourist – to throw oranges up into their branches for good luck.

The Year of the Sheep

The Chinese lunar calendar is associated with the Shēngxiào, or Chinese zodiac. This year is the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram).

The sheep is recognised as one of the animals of the zodiac that people like the most; gentle and calm, the sheep is unable to walk backwards or sideways and so continues plodding onwards, indicating that 2015 will be a year that people will progress, slowly yet steadily.

The sheep is also the eighth zodiac animal, making it one of the most auspicious signs; eight is one of the luckiest numbers in China, symbolising peace and wealth.

Mythology

According to ancient Chinese folklore, a mythical beast called the Nian would visit a small village in China at the beginning of New Year and terrorise the people, eating livestock, crops and even villagers, especially children. However, it was soon discovered that the Nian hated both the colour red and loud noises. From then on every Chinese New Year’s Eve, families hang red banners from their houses, decorate the streets with red lanterns and let off loud firecrackers in order to scare the Nian away.

Symbolism

Red is the predominant color used in Chinese New Year celebrations. It symbolises virtue, truth and sincerity, and is seen as joyful.

Red envelopes, known as ‘lai see’ in Cantonese and ‘hong bao’ in Mandarin, are often presented at social and family gatherings during Chinese New Year to children or unmarried and unemployed adults. The red color of the envelope symbolises good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

Typically, the envelopes contain money. The amount of money given usually ends in an even number, as off-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount (such as 40 and 404) as the pronunciation of the word ‘four’ sounds like that of the word for ‘death’ and thus signifies bad luck.

Hakkasan will be offering all guests who dine from the signature Chinese New Year menu a red envelope containing a gift. This will be accompanied by a red wishing ribbon, and guests will be encouraged to share their wishes for 2015 before hanging the ribbon on the latticed woodwork in the restaurants. These wishes will be shared on the Hakkasan Wishes Instagram page and Chinese New Year website.

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