The Lunar New Year celebrations have begun and we are so excited to share and write about our co-founders’ heritage during this special time of year! It’s a widely celebrated time that brings together all of the most beautiful things in life — family, heritage, and of course, food! At our kimono store this season, we have several pop ups going on with our most recent offering Lunar New Year cakes. We love the Chinatown Lunar New Year parade that comes about a block away from our kimono store on Grant Avenue. And we absolutely love connecting with customers, local and from around the world, as they step into our kimono store and see the Lunar New Year gifts and decorations we have to celebrate this special time of year.
When sisters and co-founders Renee and Tiffany Tam started to create their floral kimono robes, bringing their own heritage to each of their pieces was integral to their creative process. Whether it was designing a kimono style jacket with the symbolism of the lotus, or a black floral kimono wrap with the red cherry blossoms that mean so much in Chinese and Japanese heritage, the story and symbolism of their family traditions has always been central to their creations. So during Lunar New Year, we’re sharing even more about the heritage and traditions of the Tam family and the holiday in general. We hope it makes you feel connected to the heritage behind all of our floral kimono robe pieces, inspires you to make traditions of your own, and connects you to the stories of your own heritage.
If you go to History.com, you’ll see that the origins of Lunar New year were a “time of feasting and to honor household and heavenly deities, as well as ancestors.” It starts at the first new moon of the month in January, and lasts for about two weeks or so until the full moon of January arrives. As the name of the holiday suggests, it’s tied closely to the lunar calendar. You may also be familiar with its ties to the zodiac calendar as well. Every year, the lunar calendar is represented by a zodiac animal (there are 12 zodiac animals in all — the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig). In addition to the animals, the elements of earth, water, fire, wood and metal are also related to the traditional lunar calendar, so every year corresponds to both an animal and an element. This year in 2023 is the year of the Water Rabbit! In our kimono store, you can find red envelopes with Water Rabbits on them and other decorative items that celebrate this particular Lunar New Year.
As stated above, this holiday roots its origins in feasting and honoring the household. All of these traditions are closely connected to the family unit. It’s the family who feasts together, cleans and opens up the space together, and honors the ancestors who have passed before them together. But some of the most fun and important parts of these traditions is truly the food. Just like the symbolism in all of our floral kimono robes, there is rich symbolism behind all of the traditional Lunar New Year food during this holiday. The Tam family celebrates with the following foods which offer both sustenance and symbolism. The traditional dishes are prepared in order to create blessings for the next year. Both the names and looks of these traditional foods are symbols of wishes for prosperity, happiness, and abundance.
Though every region (and of course, even from household to household) have different customs, there are some common dishes you can find in variety of places. Learn some traditional Lunar New Year food symbolism below.
In some parts of China, chicken soup is the first meal of the new year and a wish for peace in the year to come. Eating chicken feet represents grasping onto wealth; wings help you fly higher; and the bones represent outstanding achievement. For the first meal, some families may also cook egg, which represent gold and silver through the yolk and the egg white.
Steamed fish is a staple of Lunar New Year. Half of the fish is eaten for dinner, and the second half the next day. This is to prolong the surplus and make the future prosperous as well. A whole fish also represents a harmonious and whole family. The Chinese phrase 有头有尾 (yǒu tóu yǒu wěi) means to have both a head and tail so the entire fish would be eaten. This is a reminder to finish any work you begin and start with a positive mindset. Some families in some regions also may add touches of red peppers to the dish as red is a festive and lucky color. The spicy hotness expresses wishes for fiery (thriving) business in the new year. Many of these Lunar New Year dishes have a double meaning, for example the Cantonese pronunciation of "fish" is "yu" which can also stand for abundance.
At the big feast of Lunar New Year, the table is not complete unless it also has an abundance of vegetables. This can come cooked in many different ways, but one is a vegetarian stir fry. The representation of vegetables signifies all things renewal — spring, energy, progress, and even wealth.
Originally, noodles were called “soup pancakes” (汤饼 / tang miàn). Familes would tear the noodle dough into small pieces and throw them into the pot. It wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty when people began rolling them into the noodle shape we now know them as today. During Lunar New Year, families eat long noodles. They are also called 长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn), which means “longevity noodles.” In many households, you should not cut the noodles and try not to chew them either because the longer the noodle, the longer your life will be.
Sweet rice balls (汤圆 Tāngyuán /tung-ywen/) are the main food for China's Lantern Festival, but they are also eaten throughout the Spring Festival as well. The pronunciation and round shape of tangyuan are associated with family reuniting and spending time together. That’s why these rice balls are so important on the feasting table for Lunar New Year, which is all about the family coming together as one.
We hope you find some time this Lunar New Year to partake in some of our food traditions, perhaps slip into your black floral kimono wrap with red cherry blossoms and slurp longevity noodles! We love the ritual you can create with the symbolism of food and the symbolism of a kimono style jacket alike. There is so much heritage and history to love in the ways we come together during Lunar New Year, and we invite you to stop into our kimono store and see for yourself why this is an amazing time of year!