CLOSE
Original image
iStock

10 Things You Might Not Know About the Chinese New Year

Original image
iStock

Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning January 28, China will welcome the Year of the Rooster, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world’s total population rings in the new year.

1.THE HOLIDAY WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO SCARE OFF A MONSTER.

As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A LOT OF FAMILIES USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CLEAN THE HOUSE.

While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. IT WILL PROMPT BILLIONS OF TRIPS.

Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is likely to prompt over three billion trips.

4. IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS.

While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. SOME PEOPLE RENT BOYFRIENDS OR GIRLFRIENDS TO SOOTHE PARENTS.

In China, it’s sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, they can opt for any number of people offering to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they’re a couple and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. RED ENVELOPES ARE EVERYWHERE.

An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it’s best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. IT CAN CREATE RECORD LEVELS OF SMOG.

Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there’s more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. Last year, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. BLACK CLOTHES ARE A BAD OMEN.

So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. That’s been a bit of a paradoxical tradition for Thailand-based Chinese, who are still wearing black in mourning over King Bhumibol, the decades-long monarch who recently passed. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday might be too bright, so some are opting for gold or silver.

9. IT LEADS TO PLANES BEING STUFFED FULL OF CHERRIES.

Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand: Singapore Airlines recently flew four chartered jets to South East and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons are being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. PANDA EXPRESS IS HOPING IT'LL CATCH ON IN THE STATES.

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the Festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

All images courtesy of iStock.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
Original image
iStock

Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Original image
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
arrow
Food
Here's the Butterball Hotline's Most Frequently Asked Turkey Question
Original image
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you’re preparing to conquer a whole turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving, you may have some questions. Like, is bigger really better? How long should the turkey rest? And is dunking the bird in a deep-fryer a bad idea? But if data from the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is any indication, the first and most important question you have concerns defrosting. As Fox News reports, how to properly thaw a turkey is the hotline's most frequently asked question—and has been for some time.

Dial the Butterball experts in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and they’ll likely tell you that there are two ways to handle a frozen turkey. The first is to unwrap it, place it on a tray, breast-side up, and leave it to sit in the refrigerator for a few days. The rule of thumb is to allow one day for every four pounds of turkey you’re thawing. So if you have an eight-pound bird, begin the defrosting process two days before Thanksgiving; if it’s 16 pounds, you need to let it thaw for four days.

Don’t panic if you’re reading this Wednesday night. There’s a quicker method for home cooks who prefer to wait until the last minute to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Empty and clean the sink in your kitchen and fill it with cold water. With the plastic wrapping still on, submerge the turkey in the bath, breast-side down, and leave it alone. After 30 minutes, change out the water and flip the turkey so that it’s breast-side up. Repeat the process until the meat has fully thawed, which should take half an hour per pound. (So if you’re willing to stay up the night before, you can have a frozen turkey oven-ready by Thanksgiving morning.)

Have more burning questions about your dinner’s starring dish? You can call or text Butterball for guidance between now and December 24 (for those Christmas Eve questions). For additional turkey-cooking expertise, check out our list of tips from real chefs.

[h/t Fox News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios