Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year--The Year of the Horse & "Chinese Chop Suey Candy"

新年好 Xīnnián hǎo

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese year 4712 begins on Jan. 31, 2014 and this year it is, “The Year of the Horse.“

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family. The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year's Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The communal feast called "surrounding the stove" or weilu. It symbolizes family unity and honors the past and present generations.

Probably more food is consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year. On New Year's Day, the Chinese family will eat a vegetarian dish called jai. Although the various ingredients in jai are root vegetables or fibrous vegetables. Other foods include a whole fish, to represent togetherness and abundance, and a chicken for prosperity. The chicken must be presented with a head, tail and feet to symbolize completeness. Noodles should be uncut, as they represent long life. The tremendous amount of food prepared at this time was meant to symbolize abundance and wealth for the household.

Prior to New Year's Day, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit. On walls and doors are profound pictures and happy wishes written on red paper. These messages sound better than the typical fortune cookie messages. For instance, "May you enjoy continuous good health" and "May the Star of Happiness, the Star of Wealth and the Star of Longevity shine on you" are especially positive sentiments.

Every traditional Chinese household should also have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one's career. Luck follows a home with a plant that blooms on New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. The plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance. The bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility, and the evergreen pine evokes longevity. Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow, azalea, peony, and the water lily. The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no fruits of any kind. Therefore, it is very important to have flowers, and floral decorations surround the home. 

When visiting family or friends anytime during the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration, etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges, and tangerines with leaves intact to assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

A candy tray arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness," and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults place a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune. Candied melon - growth and good health. Red melon seeds - dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth, and sincerity. Lychee nut - strong family relationships. Cumquat - prosperity (gold). Coconut - togetherness. Peanuts - long life. Lotus seeds - many children.

Me, at 2yrs old with a
Chinese Outfit my 
uncle Vincent 
bought for me

The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans, and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. After New Year's Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.

In doing the research for this post, I noticed that there are a lot of similarities from food to house cleaning that are like our New Years celebration. Learning about new traditions and celebrations from different cultures make us become aware of the countries that make the United States a real melting pot.

My recipe for today is one that is fun but yet traditional for Chinese New Year. It is called by many names but mostly known by “Chinese Chop Suey Candy.” 

"Chinese Chop Suey Candy"

1 cup sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
5 cup of corn flakes
1 cup of chopped peanuts
1 cup of flaked coconut

Cook the syrup, sugar and evaporated milk to the soft ball stage. Then, add the corn flakes, nuts, and coconut. Stirring regularly Continue cooking to 240° with a Candy Thermometer. Working quickly, drop by spoonfuls on the prepared baking sheet and set aside to cool. Yield will depend on how large you make the clusters. Can also press out on a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking pan and cut into squares. Once dried and fully set, place into cupcake liners, bag individually, or break into pieces.

Tip: Spray two spoons with non-stick spray and use one to scoop and one to push off.

Till Next Time………………………………...............

Copyright © 2014 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved


  1. What a cute photo of you! Your candies look delicious and sound fantastic, Dottie! Happy Chinese New Year!

  2. Good Morning Dottie , another wonderful post and the candy sound delicious . You was a beautiful and happy child , thanks for sharing :) Happy Chinese New Year to You , blessing .

  3. Dear Nee,
    So glad that you came by to visit and enjoyed my post. You are very sweet, and yes I was a happy child. (a little spoiled) but we all were I think. Being I was the first grandchild and the first daughter. It is always fun to look through old photos and bring back many memories of great times.
    The candy is really so easy, and it is delicious. Perfect for a sweet treat. I bet your children would like to eat these and make them. I sometimes add raisins even though it is not in the recipe, but then it reminds me of a granola.
    It was fun writing about the Chinese culture. I learned so much from my research.
    Have a blessed weekend and thanks again...Dottie :)

  4. Hi Christina,
    Thank you for stopping by. The picture of me when I was about 2 is one of my mom's favorite. My uncle was away in the service, and he brought back this outfit for me. I was the first child born in the family, so you can imagine how everyone showered me with gifts. As you can see it was too big, and my mom had to roll up the sleeves and pant legs.
    The candies are terrific. I remember when I was young my mom would make these and they were really good. Crunchy and sweet, just hits the spot!
    Glad that you had fun reading my post...Have a great weekend..
    Dottie :)

  5. Great, great, great, post, Dottie!!! I really appreciate the amount of research you did in presenting this wonderful post. I have always wanted to do a post for Chinese New Year but was always afraid to attempt such in depth research. You did fantastic! Thank you:)

    You really were so cute in your outfit. I once had a Chinese dress when I was a teenage. Boy did I love it but I never wore it in public, lol...

    The candy sounds awesome! What great use of corn flakes! Thank you so much for sharing, Dottie...

    P.S. I'm so sorry I haven't written you back yet but I am having such issues with my email and it doesn't appear I will be getting any help this weekend:(

  6. Dear Louise, Thank you for stoping by and your words of support. I can always count on my blogger friends. Yes, you can appreciate the work put into the research I do. Going in and out of websites, I just want to make sure I have all the correct facts before I post anything. But let me tell you that when I do the research I am amazed at the amount of new things I learn. It is like I am going back to school and learning about the world, and it's countries. I love it.
    Yes, the photo of myself was a great idea. I recently found it in a box of old photos and thought it was perfect for this post. I loved getting dressed up when I was a child so this must have been fun for me. Your dress must have been lovely, you should have worn it even for Halloween...You could have been a China Doll.
    Delicious candy, so crunchy and tasty as well. Plus fun to make.
    Don't worry about getting back to me. I have been going crazy too with my PC. It seems that it freezes up on me at times. Remember I told you about my issues with Twitter being hacked? Well I fixed the problem myself. Twitter was never getting back to me, so I went in one day and just pressed some buttons, and bingo, I fixed it. So now that issue is ok.
    So sorry that you still are not able to correct the email situation. I can feel your frustration! Hopefully we will be able to fix these problems and get back to the business at hand.
    So have a great weekend Louise, Blessings, and I will chat soon dear friend. Dottie :)

  7. Oh wow. I did not know all of that. I hear so much about the comming of the Chinese new year but never more information. I had no idea it lasts so long. I hope you had a very happy Chinese New Year.

    1. Hi Lady Lilith, Thank you for stopping by for a visit. Yes, there is a lot to know about the Chinese New Year..Being Italian, I had no idea either that it lasted for 15 days! But my research gave me such great info, I had to share it with all of my followers. Glad that you enjoyed the post, do come back on Wordless Tuesday for another delicious recipe! Have a wonderful day...Dottie :)

  8. Thank you for all this info about Chinese new year. My son is learning about it at school and I must say I don't know much about it. It is basically their Christmas and new year time all together. I love the look of these cakes you make too.
    Hope you are having a good week dear Dottie. Ciao!

    1. Hi Alida, Thanks, so glad that you stopped by and enjoyed this post. I loved learning all about the Chinese culture as well. Had not idea about their customs and how long their New Years lasted. Good for your son, maybe he will recognize some of the info I wrote about. The candy is really so good, I love the crunch from the nuts and cornflakes, plus the sweetness of the coconut. Have a blessed week too, Dottie :)

  9. Dear Dottie, This is a very nice recipe that is easy to follow, sweet and delicious.
    You were simply adorable. Such nice times to remember.
    Blessings dear. Catherine xo

    1. Hi Catherine, Thanks for stopping by and I am so happy that you enjoyed this post. I really loved doing the research for this post, so interesting. Gald that you enjoyed the recipe, they are delicious.My favorite is something that is crunchy and sweet! Blessing for a good week, be safe and warm, with this crazy weather! Dottie :)