Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson Special to Colorado Community Media
Colorado State University doctoral student Xinyi “Katya” Zhou grew up celebrating Lunar New Year in her hometown of Beijing, China. Each year to celebrate, Zhou’s family would prepare an elaborate dinner on the eve of the Lunar New Year, full of potstickers, chilled braised beef, many prepared vegetables, chocolates, nuts and wine.
Potstickers, the most important part of Zhou’s family celebration, were made with yellow chives, eggs and napa cabbage with homemade Sichuan peppercorn oil to add flavor.
“Years ago, when my grandparents were healthier, we’d make potstickers together. My mom would mix the fillings and my grandpa — the chief in the family — was the quality control and would tell Mom if the potstickers need more salt or any adjustments,” said Zhou. “Grandma, my mom, and sometimes my aunt, would actually make the potstickers. I would help as well, especially as I got older. My uncle either helped with the potsticker making or would make the dough and roll it into thin pieces.”
Guests would come and go from Zhou’s house throughout the several days of the Lunar New Year celebrations, sometimes bringing gifts along with them such as food and potted plants. Guests were greeted by a decorated front door, adorned with the Chinese character that means luck.
Zhou’s family will be celebrating the Lunar New Year in Beijing, but because it falls in the middle of the spring semester, Zhou will be staying in Colorado and expects to spend most of the time dedicated to her studies — writing and working on her dissertation, she said.
“I do want to find some time to make potstickers with my boyfriend and friends from the CSU anthropology department, if I have time,” Zhou added.
Lunar New Year celebrated in many places
China is a large, diverse country with varying cultural traditions. The majority of the population celebrates Lunar New Year and it is traditionally associated with the reunion of families, homemade food and time off work. Many people hold parties with food and dancing, and towns usually set off fireworks. In many areas of China, people receive seven days off of work, as preparations for the holiday start well in advance.
Lunar New Year is also celebrated outside of China in other East Asian countries such as Taiwan and Korea; in India in South Asia; in Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia in Southeast Asia; and in parts of the Middle East and North America.
The 2023 Chinese Lunar New Year marks the year of the rabbit. Each year’s animal classification is a part of the Chinese zodiac and is based on the lunar calendar. The Chinese zodiac repeats on a 12-year cycle. For 2023, the rabbit symbolizes compassion, creativity, conflict avoidance, friendship and family bonding. Many Chinese people use the zodiac symbolism to help define the coming year.
Parties for the incoming year of the rabbit and Lunar New Year celebration will be held across the world, including one in Denver hosted by the Nathan Yip Foundation.
The Nathan Yip Chinese New Year Celebration is Denver’s largest and, according to the foundation, the most authentic Lunar New Year Party. It will take place on Feb. 4.
“The event is going to be amazing,” said Nathan Yip Foundation Executive Director Jill Shenkel Henwood.
This year’s event will have a Chino-Latino theme, and the Colorado Mambo Orchestra will provide musical entertainment.
“We have a large Hispanic population, so it’s fitting to reflect the diversity of the city and the rest of the state,” Henwood said. “We really want to celebrate the mixing of cultures with this event.”
In addition to the musical entertainment, the event will include a silent and live auction, a cocktail hour, lion dancers, a main presentation, family style dining and a post-dinner night market.
The dinner will include a traditional Chinese “prosperity” salad toss called yusheng. The tradition involves the mixing of traditional Chinese ingredients — all of which symbolize positive things such as money, luck, long life and prosperity in business. Ingredients are added to the salad one at a time and are accompanied by recited greetings of good luck.
The Nathan Yip Foundation has a rich history of improving education quality and access in remote areas of China. Now, they’ve turned their attention to Colorado, supporting teachers and students in rural school districts.
The Lunar New Year Celebration is the foundation’s biggest fundraising event of the year, and proceeds from the event will help support its mission.
“After spending years working to help schools in rural China, the Nathan Yip Foundation Board decided to look at the struggles in our own backyard and those of students in rural Colorado,” said Henwood. “We’re working to address the equity and opportunity gap that exists between education in the city compared to rural Colorado schools.”