It's that time of the year for the most important Chinese Festival of the whole year: Chinese New Year, or 中國農曆新年! A festive time filled with wintery skies, red packets (紅包), relatives (and more relatives!), feasts (and more feasts!), the all important color Red and visiting old friends. Yeah!! We are already starting to do our preparations including a favorite ritual of mine, the Chinese New Year Tray of Togetherness! The Tray of Togetherness, or 攢盒, is a lovely (Red!) chinese candy box with compartments that you fill up with all different kind of chinese new year candies, all of which have symbolically lucky meanings. Then when your Chinese New Year visitors come a'calling, you can offer them some lucky nibbles.
The Chinese New Year Tray of Togetherness is filled with traditional chinese new year candies, which is mostly candied fruits and vegetables, and chinese favorites like dried melon seeds. You don't really see these type of candies the rest of the year, but as Chinese New Year comes around they are really being sold everywhere! Yum, yum yum!!
Here are the Chinese New Year Candies that we bought this year for our Tray of Togetherness and their symbolic meanings:
This is Dried Candied Lotus Root, or 糖蓮藕. The Lotus Root's symbolic meaning is abundance year after year. I love how lotus roots look! It's a great example of the awesome beauty made by Mother Nature herself. (You can also stir fry lotus roots (non candied) for a deliciously healthy vegetarian dish.)
This is Dried Candied Coconut, or 糖椰子. The Coconut's symbolic meaning is togetherness. These Dried Candied Coconuts come in both chunks and strips. I like the strips cuz the strips of coconut are so neat-o. Like frozen ribbons of pure snowy sweety whiteness...
This is Dried Red Watermelon Seeds, or 紅瓜子. The Red Watermelon Seed symbolic meaning is happiness (Red), fertility or many offspring (Seeds), which for the older chinese generations was very important. These red seeds come from Ningxia watermelons but watch out as many dealers dye their seeds to achieve an even more red color that the chinese think is lucky. (The color Red again!) So avoid buying red watermelon seeds that are garishly red.
This is Dried Black Watermelon Seeds, or 黑瓜子. The Watermelon Seed's symbolic meaning is fertility or many offspring (again!). Actually, Chinese people love these watermelon seeds and eat them all year around! I've many a times watched my 媽媽 and her friends go through mountains of these little seeds as they sat around and chatted about this and that. It's tricky to eat at first but once you get the hang of it it's easy to become addicted to these watermelon seeds.
How to eat chinese watermelon seeds: Take one seed and hold upright with the pointy end facing you. Position the pointed end of the seed in between your front teeth. Bite down gently, making sure that your teeth have a firm grip on oppposite sides of the upright seed. When you hear a crack, remove seed and use your fingernail to pry open the two sides of the shell. Eat the tasty seed inside. (Voila! You will have many offspring!)
This is Dried Candied Lotus Seed, or 糖蓮子. The Lotus Seed's symbolic meaning is (guess what?) fertility and many offsprings. He, he! Chinese really used to be obsessed with having many descendants, shall we say, especially of the male kind. Even when I was growing up it was a big issue for my poor 爸爸 who desperately wanted a male heir after having three girl in a row. But alas, he ultimately got stuck with just us three gorgeous headstrong girls. To be fair, though, I have noticed a definite shift nowadays in this respect, especially (and surprisingly) among the older generation. All the older people I talk to nowadays prefer girls!
This is Dried Candied Winter Melon, or 糖冬瓜. The Winter Melon's symbolic meaning is growth and good health. This year was the first time I've tried these candied fruit and they are really yummy! The candied exterior is hard, almost a bit crunchy, and then the interior of the Candied Winter Melon is juicy! Yum, very delicious, I think I need to eat some more!
It's been so fun this year preparing for the Chinese New Year since my little girl has helped out with all the steps, from buying the Chinese New Year candies to filling the Togetherness Tray. It's gotten her (and myself!) all excited about Chinese New Year!
All of us at The Hong Kong Cookery wishing you a Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快樂! May you be happy and prosperous! 恭賀新禧!
More Fun Festival stuff at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Mid Autumn Festival- Making Your Own Mooncake
Buddha's Delight | Luohan Zhai 羅漢齋 Google