LISHA ZHONG FOR VARSITY

Chinese New Year has always had a special place in my heart. Itʼs the time for families to reconnect and for old friends to catch up. It's a time when negativity is dispelled in order to welcome the coming of the new year. For many Cambridge students, this year might be the first time which they aren't with their families, and instead celebrate with newly formed friends.

Food plays an important role in this month-long celebration, bringing familiar flavours in this otherwise new and unfamiliar place. Food reminds me of my culture, of my childhood, and of my family. During the Chinese New Year, many of us would gather with a couple of good friends and spend the entire afternoon preparing for the evening meal. Chinese New Year therefore becomes one of the rare opportunities for me to put down my usual work to enjoy time with friends in the short Cambridge Term. For many of us, Chinese New Year becomes an amazing excuse to get together with friends whom we haven’t seen in a while to reminisce golden memories from the past years. Whilst there's always such an array of food at the New Year celebration, these dishes hold are particularly special to me:

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Laba Congee

The season kicks off with the Laba Congee, a porridge made from eight different kinds of grains and goodies to signify good harvest (remnants from agricultural times) and good fortune. Different regions of China include different types of grains into this amazing porridge, reminding people of the fruits of the past year of hard work.

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Tangyuan

Similar to the Laba congee, the tangyuan is a classic in the chinese selection of desserts. This dessert is eaten about a week before the CNY which signifies “Minor CNY” , a pre-event to the actual CNY. Families gather around to share a bowl of hot tang yuan or rice balls with sweet filling less red bean and sesame. The tangyuanʼs spherical shape symbolises family harmony and unity, in the face of cold and long winters. Tangyuan is usually added to a sweet dessert soup base featuring Red Dates, dried Longans and ice sugar. (ask your Chinese friends what they are).

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Dumplings

Dumplings are the main show of the whole festival; somewhat equivalent to Turkey during thanksgiving and mince pies during Christmas. Dumplings have a special symbol to the Chinese, and the whole family will come together to make dumplings only after dinner so that plates and plates of dumplings can be served right when clock strikes 12 to welcome the new Nian (or year). Some families even go further to stay up for the night as part of tradition. My best memories of New Year were fire crackers that echoed in the streets and the coins we would find in dumplings as prayers for the coming year.


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The problem this year:
This year has been difficult for China. With the spread of the Coronavirus, families have been advised to stay at home while millions of medical staff are working around the clock to alleviate the crisis. Millions have not been able to enjoy this festival season and are being threatened by the lack of medical supplies such as Surgical mask and protective masks. Therefore, I hope to call up everyone to contribute to this crisis and pass our prayers to the warriors who are defending not just china but the world against the virus.

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