Happy Year of the Tiger! Celebrating Lunar New Year throughout Southeast Asia.
It's nearly that magical time of the year where much of Asia is abuzz with the nostalgia of Lunar New Years’ past and the promise of hope in this Lunar New Year to come. Also known as Spring Festival, it marks the end of a hard and dreary winter and the beginning of a beautiful and bountiful spring.
Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, is not only celebrated in China but highly regarded in much of Asia due to emigration and trade. There's always a Chinatown somewhere, symbolizing the preservation and sharing of ideas, food, and holidays.
Called Têť in Vietnam or Imlek in Indonesia, Lunar New Year has certainly made its mark as a beloved holiday across Southeast Asia and throughout the diaspora. The just over two-week-long celebrations are marked by temple visits, lion and dragon dances, hosting incredible feasts and of course, the exchanging of the coveted little red envelopes called hóngbāo.
Celebrating the Lunar New Year in Southeast Asia
In the Philippines, the streets of Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world, will be full of onlookers in awe of the dragon and lion dances, the two powerful animals signifying power and strength [dragon], safety, and luck [lion].
Delicious smells of an entire 10-course meal waft out of every open door in Singapore. Indonesians will spend the hours needed to clean the house and make kue nastar and lapis legit – all in the hopes to wash away bad luck and bring about layers of fortune. In Thailand, families flock to temples to pay their respects in earnest, laying flowers on shrines, relishing the joy of family past and present to honor their ancestors.
We love that the Lunar New Year is about reuniting families and taking time to reflect and reevaluate oneself. This is a time for Southeast Asia's ethnic Chinese and their neighbors to gather with family and friends, settle debts, serve feasts, and wish one another prosperity in the coming year.
The firework displays, lion dances, and bright red that dominates streets, homes, and clothing showcase the spirit and abundance of the holiday. Southeast Asia's long history of trade and emigration with China has resulted in vast Chinese communities that commemorate the holiday with a touch of local flavor.
Check out these Lunar New Year delicacies and dishes served in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia!
In celebration of Lunar New Year, we’ve gathered some of our fave dishes cooked in Southeast Asia to give you an authentic taste of the holiday!
In Malaysia, it is customary for almost every Chinese family in Malaysia to celebrate the Chinese New Year with chicken (either steamed or boiled). In the past, chicken meat was considered a luxury item and thus served only during significant festivals when the entire family gathers. As a result, eating chicken also symbolizes community.
Famous tikoy in the Philippines
Tikoy is the most popular Lunar New Year treat in the Philippines, almost as iconic as the Chinese New Year's cake nian gao is in other countries. It is made with sticky or glutinous rice flour that is combined with lard, water, and sugar. Green pandan and purple ube are also popular flavors.
In Singapore, the traditional version of Chinese New Year rice cake is steamed with brown sugar and wrapped in lotus leaves. No need to worry about making the dish at home when visiting Singapore. Over the course of the traditional 15-day celebration, many restaurants will offer nian gao as a sweet treat to their customers!
There is only one place in the world where you can get a Red Mangkok Cake: Indonesia. The red cake's top opens up like a flower in bloom! It's a must-have Chinese New Year dish and is believed to bring good fortune for the year ahead.
Some of us may not be able to go back to our homelands for the celebration, but you can definitely enjoy this festive occasion with the whole family wherever you are in the world.
And of course, to make this season more exciting, we’ve created our first Lunar New Year Snack Box! Festivities are underway across the Asia-Pacific region where LNY is celebrated, and what better way to celebrate than a box of treats from around the community? Shop here and celebrate the year of the tiger with this special box full of snacks and confections from across the Asia Pacific. You might even get a little pack of tiger balm to top it off!
Today, wherever you travel in Southeast Asia – as the Chinese lunar calendar's annual moveable feast changes – Chinese ethnic communities throw massive parties, and everyone (not just ethnic Chinese) is invited.
With the devastation brought on by covid and the waves of senseless violence against Asians in the diaspora, the air usually thick with excitement right before the holiday is replaced by exhaustive caution. For the third year in a row, celebrations won't be as grand, masks will be worn in addition to elaborate costumes, and zoom parties will still be a thing.
Despite it all, celebrants welcome Lunar New Year with wide outstretched arms, hungry bellies, and loving hearts. They set off to stoke the fires of our old traditions and make new ones for the new generation. They will ring in the coming of Spring with greetings of Gong Xi Fat Cai, slip little hands, little red envelopes, and of course, eat their weight in dumplings and special dishes passed on from ancestors and ones innovated by new friends.
A holiday that translates across cultures, signifies renewal yet is heavily steeped in tradition, Lunar New Year surely reminds celebrants of the resilience of their communities and the everlasting hope we must hold for peace and prosperity. All of us at Tuk Tuk Box are so ready to usher in a new year and dare to ask for peace, prosperity, and abundance!
If this is your first or your fiftieth time celebrating this beautiful holiday, we wish you and your loved ones nothing but love and prosperity for the coming year.