Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Year of the Dragon

New Milk Moon

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I am the unquenchable Fire,
  The center of all energy,
  The stout heroic heart.
  I am truth and light,
  I hold power and glory in my sway.
  My presence
  Disperses dark clouds
  To tame the Fates.

  I am the Dragon.

Year of the Dragon

Gung Hay Fat Choy! January 23 is the new Fasting Moon in Annette Hinshaw's calendar and the first day of the lunar new year, a huge celebration all over Asia. The festival is called Tet Nguyen Dan in Vietnam, Chaul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia and Chun Jie, or the Spring Festival, in Chinese speaking communities. When I was a little kid in San Francisco Chinese New Year was almost as big of a holiday at my elementary school as Thanksgiving or Spring Break. We made red envelopes to fill with chocolate coins and watched lion dancers at school and parades in Chinatown. 

Every year in the Chinese calendar is ruled by an animal, creating the Chinese zodiac. The year 4710, or 2012 in the Gregorian calendar, is a Year of the Dragon, a headstrong, charismatic, and enthusiastic animal who's luck just never stops. Dragon is known for being a free spirited doer who always wins people's admiration and never accepts defeat. Though my theme for 2012 is Grabbing the Tiger By the Tail, the Chinese Dragon is a perfect poster child for the kind of year I want to have. Bright, buoyant, active and adventurous. There is a caution, though, with Dragon because they can tend towards being a bit brash, abrasive or prone to power-over dynamics. I am liable to fall into these patterns myself so I will be calling on the Water Dragon, this year's elemental dragon, to help me remain more open minded, to see other people's points of view and weigh all the options before rushing into action. Martin Luther King, Jr., Woodrow Wilson and John Lennon were all born in the Year of the Dragon. I wonder what will be born this year?

Dragon and Mandarins

Food plays a central role in the celebration of the Chinese New Year and there is much symbolism on the banquet table. Oranges and tangerines are given as gifts and eaten at meals both because they are so deliciously in season this time of year, but also because their names sound like the words for luck and gold in Chinese. Whole fish are often served to represent the beginning and end of a lucky year and sweets of various kinds bring a sweetness to the year. The local Asian newspaper here in Portland printed the following recipe and I hope to try it sometime this season. Long beans or long noodles represent long life and lobster represents the dragon of the zodiac. Shrimp or chicken can be substituted for the lobster, or combined with the dragon of the sea. Combining lobster and chicken is another traditional food, symbolizing the lucky union of the dragon and the phoenix.

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Dragon Beans
1 tbs oil (vegetable, peanut, or lard)
1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds Chinese long beans (also called yard long beans, string beans can be used)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs toasted sesame oil
splash of Sriracha sauce
7 oz cooked lobster meat, chopped (substitute/combine shrimp or chicken)
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds

In a wok or deep skillet over medium-high, heat the vegetable oil. Add the peppercorns, five spice powder, and garlic. Heat, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.

Add the beans and toss to coat. Add the water, oyster sauce, and soy sauce and cover. Allow the beans to stem for five minutes, or until just tender. Add the sesame oil, Sriracha, lobster meat, and sesame seeds. Toss together and cook until just heated through. Serve immediately. 

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Lion Dance

How are you celebrating this ancient and global festival? Do you have family or community traditions around the Chinese New Year or is all of this new to you? What foods bring good luck and wealth in your home? How is the dragon going manifest its optimistic, exuberant and charming energies into your life this year?

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New Milk Moon 2009: New Milk Moon

New Milk Moon 2011: The Quaker Year

This post is about Chinese New Year, which I mention in the Full Fasting Moon 2009 post and The Nian.

** This winter was tough and I got messed up in my calendar. I wrote this thinking it was the Fasting Moon but it was really the Milk Moon. Since the post itself is more about the the Chinese New Year I just changed the tags and labels. For more on my thoughts about this, see this post. **

1 comment:

Bicultural Mama said...

Great post, and that green bean recipe looks like it's going to be delicious! - Bicultural Mama