The Chinese New Year, known by the locals in China as the "Spring Festival," is an important festival celebrated on the new moon of the lunar Chinese calendar. You know that holiday where people dress up as dragons, children carry lanterns and we fall into a new year of the Chinese zodiac
This year, the first day of the Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, Jan. 28. Celebrations traditionally run from the eve before the day up until the 15th day of the Chinese calendar. The final celebration, which will be on Feb. 11, is called the Lantern Festival in which children go out at night carrying paper lanterns and in some regions it is also considered to be the Chinese Valentine's Day.
What is most significant for most, however, is the marking of the transition into a new year in the Chinese zodiac, a repeating 12-year cycle in which animals are attributed to each year. While this year was the year of the Monkey, as of Saturday, Jan. 28 it will be the year of the Fire Rooster. The only bird species in the cycle, if you were born in the years 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 then you are also a Fire Rooster, a zodiac credited with the characteristics of being punctual, loyal, observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, talented and confident.
While colorful parades are the norm in many "China towns" all over the world, some of the more authentic traditions of Chinese New Year include thoroughly cleaning your house to sweep away ill fortunes and to make room for new luck. Money is sometimes gifted in little red envelopes and dumplings tend to be a staple at celebration dinners.
Celebrations in town
Shang Palace, located in the magnificent Shangri-La Bosphorus hotel just adjacent to the ferry port in Beşiktaş, will be serving a lavish Chinese New Year feast every day between Friday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Feb. 11.
Chef Bing Li and his team will be preparing a very special menu for the next two weeks, serving Canton and Sichuan specialties for a traditional Chinese New Year meal. Arguably the best Chinese food in town and definitely the poshest, this menu will certainly be delicious and if you are a fan of Asian cuisine, this is a culinary experience you won't want to miss.
The menu will include a shredded duck salad, shrimp wontons, "Lo Hei" salmon and salmon "Sashimi," chicken and corn soup, braised seafood with ginger and spring onion in a clay pot, pan-fried beef in a black pepper sauce and braised chicken with black beans and shallots served in a clay pot.
Other specialties include homemade bean curd filled with shrimp and chicken paste, Sichuan style braised eggplant with beef and spicy sauce served in a clay pot and fried rice with minced beef, spring onion and lettuce.
Shang Palace is now taking reservations for this special meal, so hurry before it's too late.
The International Women of Istanbul, aka IWI, a nonprofit organization, which brings together international women of all ages and nationalities who reside in Istanbul, will also be getting together for the Chinese New Year for a very special lunch that will also be held at Shangri-La's prestigious Shang Palace.
This event will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 7 between noon and 2:30 p.m. local time and will be a big luncheon affair with dozens of Istanbul's foreign residents coming together to chat and socialize while enjoying scrumptious Chinese food in honor of their traditional new year. Registration for the event costs TL 160 ($42) for IWI's basic members and TL 150 ($38) for classic, business and honorary members.
Pop-Up Dinners Istanbul, a venture by a Dutch-Singaporean expat who cooks exclusive dinners out of her home in Cihangir, will also be hosting a very special meal for the Chinese New Year. The event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 8:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Reserve your seat early, because these Pop-up restaurant nights, which only serve a limited number of guests, tend to fill up fast, which should come as no surprise just glancing at the menu in store for the night. The menu will consist of vegetable spring rolls, crab in rice paper rolls, Hoi Sin beef steamed pow (bun), prawn and pork steamed dumpling, turnip slice with dried prawn and lap choeng (Chinese sausage), sweet chili sauce, five Spice smoked chicken, whole fish in black bean sauce, crispy belly pork, crispy fried lemon chicken, egg fried rice with lap choeng (Chinese pork sausage), vegetable noodles red cabbage salad with a crispy topping and to top it all off Moon cake!