Celebrating Year of the Pig with life-threatening fireworks
This Sunday (2/18) is the Chinese New Year. What better way to celebrate than with some amazing displays of Chinese ingenuity and life-threatening fireworks?
Sky lanterns originated from Pingshi, a village located in a mountainous region outisde of Taipei:
Originally inhabited by indigenous people, the region was later developed by Han settlers who were often the victims of murder and robbery during earlier times. Since access to the region was inconvenient, these pioneers came up with the idea of releasing "sky lanterns" to let others know that they were safe and sound. Source: Government of Taiwan
Today, the lanterns are released during the Lantern Festival, the last festival of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Here's a beautifully serene scene from a recent celebration:
Another spectacular view:
Peaceful sky lanterns are not the only way to celebrate. In the village of Yanshuai they mount firecrackers into beehive launchers and fire straight into the crowd!
Here's a scene from the festival that is an insane blend of Terminator, 12 Monkeys, and pure awesome:
There is a method to this madness:
It is told that in 1875, the village of Yanshui in Tainan County was stricken with a pestilence that lasted for twenty years and nearly wiped out the town's entire population. The few survivors that remained prayed to the Goddess Kuan Yin to come to inspect the ravished land. On the day of the Lantern Festival, the town residents entreated the deity Kuan Kung and the deities of Heaven to come to earth to witness their plight, lining the route with signal fires and firecrackers to help the spirits ward off evil and rid the town of disease. Source: Government of Taiwan
While the disease was wiped out, scalp burns rose 2000%. If you want to find out more, here's a short movie on the subject (it is in Chinese).
Eating for prosperity
2007 is the year of the pig. Before you pig out during celebrations, check out these interesting superstitions that will bring you good luck for the rest of the year:
The foods themselves are selected mostly for their names as homonyms to prosperity, longevity, etc. Bak-choy sounds like the term for "great wealth," so a dish with bokchoy would be included. Oysters are called "Hao," which sounds like the word for "an auspicious occasion or event," and "Fu," as in tofu, sounds the same as "riches," so a tofu dish is always present.
Fish is always included, but this one gets a little weird. The Chinese word for fish is "Yu," which also means "surplus," something any family would want plenty of. The problem comes from eating your surplus, leaving the family with nothing. Often a spoiled fish is cooked in a spectacular fashion, as a showpiece only, not meant to be eaten.
Sometimes a fish carved from wood is sauced to represent the fish course. Only if the host first breaks the fish into small pieces in front of them should guests ever eat the fish (or in the case of Yu Sheng -- Chinese New Year Salad -- where all the guests simultaneously toss the fish within the salad). Source: Weekly Wire.
If you want to celebrate without throwing a feast, check out Andrea's recipe for braised lettuce. Happy Chinese New Years!
Photo by Giovanni JL