Naan Bread — from the site: Your Homebased Mom

Indian style Naan bread is soft and chewy and so easy to make at home. It’s the perfect accompaniment to so many meals. What is Naan Bread? Similar to pita bread or flat bread, naan bread is a soft, thick bread. It is usually cooked in a clay tandoori oven and served warm with butter. It…

via Naan Bread — Your Homebased Mom

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Celebrate the Chinese New Year!

The Chinese New Year begins Tuesday, February 5, 2019.  It is the Year of the Pig.

Celebrate the Chinese New Year: The Year of the Pig

2019 is the Year of the Pig

According to www.chinesenewyear2018.com, the facts below are just 21 Things You Didn’t Know about the Chinese New Year.

1. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival

In China, you’ll hear it being called chunjie (春节), or the Spring Festival. It’s still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what it brings along: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts.

You can also call it the Lunar New Year, because countries such as North and South Korea and Vietnam celebrate it as well. And because the Spring Festival goes according to the lunar calendar. Which means . . .

2. There’s no set date for Chinese New Year

According to the Lunar calendar, the Spring Festival is on January 1st and lasts until the 15th (the full moon). But when you try to calculate it with the solar (Gregorian) calendar, the date is all over the place.

Chinese New Year ranges from January 21 to February 20. In 2018, it occurs on February 16. For a full list of dates and events check out our Chinese New Year calendar.

The lunar calendar is still really important in China, even though it has officially moved to the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world. All traditional holidays and days such as the Winter Solstice are celebrated. Some people still calculate their birthdays and ages according to the lunar calendar too!

3. It is a day for praying to gods

The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. As an agrarian society, the harvest was everything. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as gods (see Mulan for reference).

4. and fighting off monsters

But the myths are much more interesting. According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian (年). It would come about every New Year’s Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. But one boy was brave enough to fight him off using firecrackers. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.

5. The most fireworks are set off in the world that night

As in the myth about Nian, firecrackers are supposed to scare off monsters and bad luck. So people stay up on Chinese New Year’s Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and good luck.

6. (but sometimes it’s illegal)

Due to safety reasons and concerns for air pollution, many Chinese cities have banned fireworks. More than 500 cities have restrictions too.

But… many people don’t care and they do it anyway. Beijing had banned fireworks for 13 years. The ban was lifted in 2006 because of the angry public.

If you’re in China during this time, you’ll probably be able to hear and see the explosions for at least 3 nights (and it can go on for weeks).

7. It is the longest Chinese holiday

The Spring Festival is technically 15 days. But celebrations start on New Year’s Eve (making it 16 days). You can also say that the holiday season starts in (lunar) December with the Laba Festival (腊八节—là bā jié). That’s around 40 days of celebrations!

Traditionally, you have to spend time with your family and can only go out after the 5th day. It’s a national holiday. The large majority of stores are closed too.

So in the month before, people will buy nian huo (年货), or New Year’s products. The Chinese stock up on cooking supplies, snacks, gifts, new clothes and more.

8. The Spring Festival causes the largest human migration in the world

The most important part of Chinese New Year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for the New Year’s Eve dinner.

But since in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages while their children work in the cities. The migration back home and to go on vacation is called chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration.

Plus, the earliest you can buy train tickets is 60 days before. It leads to a mad rush of literally fighting for tickets. In 2015, statistics showed that around 1,000 tickets were sold each second.

9. Singles hire fake boy/girlfriends to take home

You know those nosy relatives during Thanksgiving? It’s even worse in China. Especially since having children and passing down the family name is one of the most important parts in Chinese culture.

Some desperate singles resort to hire a fake boyfriend or girlfriend to take home. Those who can’t (or don’t want to) go home can rent themselves out. For some of the other questions though, such as your salary, career or when you want to have kids, can’t be helped.

10. No showering, sweeping or throwing out garbage allowed!

Showering isn’t allowed New Year’s Day. Sweeping and throwing out garbage isn’t allowed before the 5th. This is to make sure you don’t wash away the good luck!

On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.

What else is taboo during Chinese New Year?

  • Hair cutting (before February 2)
  • Using scissors, knives and other sharp things
  • Arguing, swearing
  • Saying unlucky words (such as “death” and “sickness”)
  • Breaking things

Check out our full list of taboos to learn more.

11. Children receive lucky money in red envelopes

In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays. Gifts are also exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too—red envelopes.

Also called red packets or pockets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends.

With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. This is called qiang hongbao (抢红包), or literally “snatching red pockets”.

12. You eat dumplings for every meal, every day

Well, technically you’re supposed to. But not many people do that anymore because you can have too much of even the most delicious foods. So most people will eat dumplings during the New Year’s Eve dinner. Others will eat them for the first breakfast.

Contrary to popular belief though, dumplings aren’t popular everywhere in China. It’s more of a northern thing. In the South, people would rather eat spring rolls (egg rolls) and balls of glutinous rice in soup called tangyuan (汤圆).

13. Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings

A lot cultures have symbolic foods, such as the Yule Log cake. But so many Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings behind them. And it’s mostly puns in the name.

Take the tangyuan for example. It literally means “soup balls.” But it sounds like tuanyuan (团圆), which means reunion. So it’s no surprise it’s a popular dessert during Chinese New Year.

Nian gao (年糕) is a type of rice cake. It symbolizes success each and every year.

Fa gao (发糕) is a the hybrid of sponge cakes and muffins. People dye it festive colors. The fa is the same as in fa cai (发财), which means “to get rich.” And everyone wants that!

Isn’t it nice to have a better reason to get seconds?

14. There’s wine specifically for the Spring Festival

Chinese people love drinking. There’s a saying that there’s no manners and/or etiquette without wine. This means that you need to have wine for every ceremony, festival or important dinner.

There’s wine for engagement dinners, weddings, birthdays… and of course, the Spring Festival. With such a rich wine culture, it’s no surprise that there is a bunch of drinking games you play. However, it’s not all fun and games.

When you’re eating with someone older than you, as is the case with New Year’s dinners, you need to follow strict toasting etiquette rules. They include the order of toasts, seating, how you hold the wine glass etc. etc. To learn more read our post on Chinese New Year’s drinks and etiquette.

15. The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year

Every family will deck their homes in this color. Do you remember the story about Nian? Firecrackers aren’t the only thing that scared the monster away. Red is also an invaluable weapon, and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations.

The Chinese will hang up red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more!

New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and start over fresh. People will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too.

16. Every year has a zodiac animal

Western horoscopes include 12 zodiacs, one for each month. There are 12 Chinese zodiacs as well, but the animal is for the entire year.

Chinese New Year zodiac animals

They are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

2018 is the year of the dog. Some of the animals (such as Rat, Snake, Dog and Pig) aren’t normally well-liked in Chinese culture. But as a zodiac, their positive traits are bestowed on people born that year.

They play a much bigger role than in Western cultures. Your animal can decide your career, health and relationship success. Make sure you find out what zodiac animal you are!

17. Your zodiac year is bad luck

Your benming year (本命年—běn mìng nián) is the year of your zodiac animal. And of the 12 year cycle, it is the unluckiest for you.

There are multiple explanations for this. The Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons. And your benming year is your rebirth year.

During this year, your weapon of defense is the color red. Just as you can decorate your home in red for protection and fortune, you can also wear red clothing. Many people will wear red underwear every day of the year. Others add on red shirts, pants, jewelry, insoles and more!

18. You grow 1 year older on the Spring Festival

In China, you have a “real” age (实岁—shí suì) and a “fake” nominal age (虚岁—xū suì). The real age is the one we all know about. You grow one year older on your birthday. The nominal age though, increases with the Spring Festival.

This was the age most people went with until recent times. But it’s still common nowadays, or used interchangeably. If you’re particular about it, make sure you ask!

19. The New Year greeting in Chinese is “xin nian kuai le”

The phrase literally means “Happy New Year.” But in Hong Kong and other Cantonese-speaking regions, it’s more common to say “gong hei fat choy.” In Mandarin Chinese, it’s “gong xi fa cai” (恭喜发财). It means “congratulations on the fortune.”

Chinese New Year calligraphy blessings

Calligraphy with New Year blessings.

If you check out other greetings or blessings, you’ll see that most are about:

  • Plentiful harvests
  • Wealth and fortune
  • Health and longevity
  • Having children and large families

Food, money and health are things that everyone wants. Passing down the family name is of utmost importance. That’s one of the reasons why China has such a large population.

20. Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival

The first full moon of the (lunar) year is the Yuanxiao Festival (元宵节—yuán xiāo jié) or Lantern Festival (灯节—dēng jié). Though family is still important, it’s still a night of partying and freedom.

In ancient times, girls weren’t allowed to venture outside by themselves. But on this night, they were able to walk around, moon-gaze and look at the beautiful lanterns. Because of this, it’s also known as Valentine’s Day in China.

21. Chinese New Year is celebrated all around the world

One out of every 5 people in the world is Chinese. But that stat doesn’t include the millions of overseas Chinese and people of Chinese descent.

London, England; San Francisco, USA; Sydney, Australia; all claim to have the biggest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia.

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Chinatown in Chicago, IL, USA

 

 

Find out more regarding the Chinese New Year by clicking: Year of the Pig

Jan. 23 – National Handwriting Day

Practice your “John Hancock.”  Dust off a pencil, grab a sheet of paper, and write to your grandmother, pen a love letter to your sweetie, or send a “Just thinking of you” note to a friend. It’s more personal than a text or e-mail.

 

Click here: Celebrate National Handwriting Day

 

 

John Hancock's signature

One of the most famous signatures is John Hancock on the United States Declaration of Independence. Hancock wanted to ensure that King George could read it without the use of glasses.

Bittersweet Chocolate Day – January 10th

June 10th is deemed as Bittersweet Chocolate Day.

We love our chocolates. We love it so much, that Americans consume over 3.1 billions pounds of chocolates per year. On average, each of us will consume over 10,000 chocolate bars in our lifetime!

You will be well served to know some interesting facts and trivia about chocolate, in order to “Wow” our family and friends with your chocolatey knowledge.

Chocolate Trivia:

  • Researchers have found no link between acne and chocolate.
  • While 75% of chocolate purchases are made by women all year long, during the days before Valentine’s Day and on Valentine’s Day 75% of the chocolate purchases are made by men.
  • Chocolate comes from the Cacao or cocoa bean, grown on a Cacao tree. That’s right, it is from a plant, therefore, it’s a vegetable.
  • The average person will consume 10,000 chocolate bars in a lifetime.
  • The Aztecs once used cacao beans for currency.
    Columbus brought Cacao beans back to Spain in 1520. It quickly spread across Europe.
  • The first chocolate chip cookie was invented in 1937 by Ruth Wakefield who ran the “Toll House Inn.”
  • Approximately 40% of almonds produced in the world are made for chocolate products.
  • Approximately 70% of the world’s cacao is grown in Africa.
  • The Mars company invented M&M’s for soldiers during World War II.
  • Research suggests that dark chocolate boosts memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. This makes chocoholics very smart people, right?
  • In 1942, the first chocolate bar was made by English chocolate company Cadbury.
  • The Baby Ruth bar was created in 1920 by the Curtiss Candy Company. It was named after the famous baseball player, George “Babe” Herman Ruth.

    "Babe" Ruth

    The Baby Ruth candy bar was named after the baseball player and NOT the other way around.

  • Cacao originated in Central and South America more than 4,000 years ago.
  • The Cacao tree can live for over 200 years. But, it only produces for 25 years.
  • It takes approximately 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate.
  • 70% of the world’s production of cacao beans comes from West Africa.
  • In Hershey, Pennsylvania, the street lights on “Chocolate Avenue” are in the shape of Hershey Kisses. Hershey’s produces over 70 million chocolate Kisses every day.
  • A chocolate bar is actually low in cholesterol. A 1.65 oz. bar contains only 12 mg.
  • The Catholic Church once associated chocolate with heretical behavior, including blasphemy, extortion, witchcraft, and seduction.
  • Dark chocolate has been scientifically shown to be beneficial to human health. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, and other varieties are not.
  • Women tend to prefer white chocolate, while men generally prefer bittersweet or dark chocolate. Like ’em both? That’s perfectly fine.
  • One chocolate chip can give a person enough energy to walk 150 feet. Need the energy to walk a mile? Consume just 35 chips.
  • American and Russian space flights have always included chocolate.
  • A 1.5 oz. milk chocolate bar has only 220 calories, less that a 1.75 oz. serving of potato chips at 230 calories.
  • Americans consumed over 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate, almost half of the total world’s production.
  • Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that is believed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love.
  • Hawaii is the only US state that grows cacao beans.
Hershey kisses streetlights

The street lights in Hershey, Penn. gives people a “kiss” of light.

Christmas Sherbet Punch

Recipe by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman for The Food Network

 

Yield: 20 Servings

Christmas Sherbet Punch

Photo by the Food Network

 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 gallon raspberry sherbet
  • 16 cups (1 gallon) cranberry juice (or cranberry mixed with pomegranate), well chilled
  • Two 2-liter bottles ginger ale, well chilled

 

Directions:

Make sure all the ingredients are very cold. Scoop the sherbet into a large punch bowl, then pour in the cranberry juice and ginger ale and stir gently.