The start of a new year is a time celebrated by countries and communities around the world as a time of renewal and reflection, but did you know that the new year also has many ties to agriculture? The Lunar New Year, often referred to as “Chinese New Year,” is the perfect example. (And onions even have a part in the celebration!)
The History of the Lunar New Year
In China, the Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year. China’s agrarian culture has thrived through the centuries, and the start of a new year was a time for farmers to rest from their work and celebrate.
The New Year marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the time that Chinese farmers considered the start of a new calendar cycle. They cleaned their fields and homes and prepared to plant new seeds. Friends and family traveled to be together and celebrate the start of a new year of prosperity and growth, both metaphorical and physical as new crops were planted.
Lunar New Year celebrations begin on the new moon that occurs between the end of January and the end of February and last 15 days. On the seventh day of celebration, farmers traditionally displayed their produce. Historically, the new moon was a marker for when farmers should begin to plant crops. Plant too early and crops may fall victim to a late frost. Plant too soon and crops could miss out on essential spring rains. Hence, the “Lunar” New Year. While western calendars are based on the Earth’s orbit around the sun, the Chinese New Year is based on the moon’s orbit around the Earth.
The Year of the … What?
Another tie to agriculture is the Chinese zodiac. Each new year is marked by one of 12 zodiac animals and is said to carry the characteristics of that animal:
- Rat – adaptable, stable, hardworking
- Ox – diligent, strong, determined, dependable
- Tiger – powerful, bold, wild
- Rabbit – tender, patient, polite
- Dragon – lucky, adventurous, brave
- Snake – warm-hearted, passionate, perceptive
- Horse – active, energetic, independent
- Sheep – mild, considerate, thrifty
- Monkey – intelligent, innovative, sociable
- Rooster – hardworking, courageous, resourceful, observant, talented
- Dog – kind, loyal, cautious, honest
- Pig – generous, compassionate, diligent
The animals repeat in 12-year cycles. The year 2021 is the year of the Ox, a fitting tribute to the resilience and determination of farmers around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Year, New Food
Food is one of the most important components of Chinese New Year traditions and celebrations. Popular foods include sweet sticky rice cakes, noodles, dumplings, peanuts, and fish.
While many traditional recipes include scallions over white or yellow onions, onions like those we grow at Gills Onions do make an appearance. And, many recipes can be adapted and spiced up with a dash of fresh onion. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Ginger-Onion Whole Steamed Fish – While this recipe focuses on green onions, finely chopped white or yellow onions stuffed into the fish or incorporated into the sauce add a nice depth of flavor.
- Long Chinese New Year Noodles – This take on the many noodle dishes served during Chinese New Year celebrations highlights fresh vegetables like mushrooms, bok choy, and bamboo shoots. Add in some onion and your other favorite vegetables, too.
- Szechuan Hot Pot – Every region of China has their own take on a hot pot meal. Adapt your hot pot to match favorite ingredients, like onion, from your home.
- Fortune Pockets – These dumplings combine meat, vegetables, and spices, and they can be steamed or deep fried. Add onions to your fillings and prepare with family and friends. Wrapping the pockets together is the perfect way to celebrate a new year.
Don’t Forget About Farmers
Agriculture is one of the most essential industries in the world. Without the food that farmers grow, we wouldn’t have much to celebrate. However you choose to ring in the New Year, we encourage you to remember and support the hardworking farmers that make your meals possible. Cooking with onions is a great way to start.
Ready to try onions the Gills Way? For more information, contact our sales department.