Lunar New Year 2022: What to know about the traditions and celebration for the year of the Tiger

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Monday, January 31, 2022
Year of the tiger 2022: Miya Shay shares Lunar New Year traditions as an Asian-American from food, to gifts with her family
From food to celebration preparations, ABC13's Miya Shay shares with us how her family is getting ready for the new year.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Around the world, many Asian families are getting ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and it's no different in ABC13's Miya Shay's own home.

In my household, the holiday is referred to as 'Chinese New Year.' Considering the holiday is celebrated within many east Asian countries and is based on the lunar calendar, it is also known as the 'Lunar New Year.'

This year, Lunar New Year's Eve falls on Jan. 31, and New Year's Day is Feb. 1 which is also the start of the Year of the Tiger.

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Traditionally, Asian American communities throughout the country celebrate the holiday for several weeks. Parades, festivals, and community events were cancelled in 2021 because of COVID-19, but the festive gatherings are making a comeback in Houston.

At home, the New Year's Eve dinner is a family affair, and preparations can start days in advance.

The most important tradition is making dumplings with the entire family together. The folded dumplings are shaped like gold bullions in old China, so are supposed to symbolize wealth and good fortune. The classic dumpling recipe is a filling made of pork, napa cabbage, scallions, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and a dash of sesame oil. Some people add shrimp, mushrooms, or make it vegetarian with tofu and eggs.

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In most modern households, including my own, we cheat a little with premade dumpling wrappers to save a few hours of prep time.

My boys, 8-year-old Winston Wu and 5-year-old Lyndon Wu love to help out although, their dumplings tend to take on strange shapes.

Winston shows his Texas roots through his interpretation of a dumpling.

"I think dumplings are mini tacos," Winston said. "They are very small tacos."

He's not wrong, a cooked dish with filling wrapped in dough is seen in variations of cuisines around the word.

Pan-fried dumplings are my favorite way to cook the traditional food. It takes some practice, but if you spread out your dumplings on a nonstick pan, add some water, you can steam-fry right in your pan! In about 10 minutes, the bottom will be golden brown. Flipping the dumplings over on the plate is the trick that's difficult to master.

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A good shortcut, is to buy frozen dumplings at your local Asian grocery store, then pan frying them. It will take about double the cooking time because the dumplings are frozen, but you save all the effort of making them from scratch. Don't worry, your kids will still love them!

Besides dumplings, traditional dishes for the Lunar New Year also include noodles, which symbolize long life, and whole steamed fish. The word for 'fish' also sounds like the word 'abundance' which is something important in Asian culture to remember as we move on to the New Year. For dessert, sticky rice cake called 'nian gao' is eaten, which also means 'a good year' symbolism and luck are apparent.

While all the food may be delicious, my kids' favorite part of the Lunar New Year festivities is always, the red envelopes. Children are expected to visit their elders during the Lunar New Year season. Whenever children go pay respects to their elders, those relatives are expected to gift the kids with red envelopes holding money inside.

I loved this tradition. While growing up, I would get $1 or less in my envelopes, where as my children, get to see few more dollars in their envelopes. After all, like all kids, they are eager to pick out a new toy with the money bestowed upon them for paying respects to their grandparents.

This Lunar New Year season, families around the world are counting on good luck, good health, and celebrating the Year of the Tiger. We are also seeing this as a way to turn the page on a difficult two years with COVID and the rise in Asian hate that followed.

We hope everyone will take the opportunity to celebrate with Asian-American communities. Whether it's attending a festival, taking pictures with the lion dancers, or making a batch of dumplings at home, take the opportunity to show love and caring to those around you.

And from my family to yours, Gong Xi Fa Cai, Xin Nian Kuai Le, best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year!