Year of the Pig

Kung hei fat choy (Cantonese) or Gong xi fa cai (Mandarin)! Meaning "wishing you great happiness and prosperity". Tuesday 5 February 2019 is the beginning of the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year. This year is the Year of the Pig.

By Jeremy Ryland


This week is the beginning of the new Chinese New Year. We say goodbye to the Year of the Dog and welcome in the Year of the Pig. The pig is a social animal – well known for loving its food! And the Year of the Pig is predicted to be a lucky year.

The Chinese New Year 2019 or the Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) is celebrated today according to the traditional Chinese calendar which dates from 2600BC when the Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first cycle of the Chinese zodiac. Due to the cyclical lunar dating, the first day of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February.

This year, on the Western calendar, Chinese New Year starts on Tuesday 5 February 2019. In Chinese astrology, each year is represented by an animal – 2019 is the year of the Earth Pig. If you were born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019, you were born under the sign of the pig.

The Pig has the last position in the zodiac of 12 animals. The Pig is a representation of diligence, kindness, and generosity. Intellectually curious, honest and tolerant, those born in the Year of the Pig can be relied upon for their loyalty and often make true friends for life.

The Chinese New Year is one of the world’s most important and popular festivals and one the largest annual mass human migrations in the world. The New Year is a time to begin again with hope for better times ahead. People move back to their traditional home to be with family for the festivals and feasts. Families put on new clothes, front doors are freshly painted, homes are scrubbed sparkling clean, and banners are hung to declare a very Happy New Year to all!

Chinese food traditions

As with feasts around the world, food is, of course, a major part of any Chinese New Year celebration, and entire books could be written on the multitude of food traditions that have originated over the centuries. Most of the dishes served during Chinese New Year are symbolic of something positive and hopeful. Noodles represent longevity; therefore, they should never be cut! Carp is a main dish because the fish represents strength and endurance. For dessert, oranges and tangerines are often featured since their Chinese names sound like "gold" and "wealth". And of course pork. Pork is a favourite meat on the grill – ribs, sausages, bacon, ham steak, pork loin. Traditionally, the Chinese BBQ pork in a variety of spices, such as Char Siu. This is a traditional food throughout Asia and is used in a variety of ways such as the very popular Char Siu Bao (Chinese Pork Buns).

The influence of the Chinese on our traditional Aussie cuisine cannot be underestimated. Cuisines evolve and change. Like the cultures they belong to, they are dynamic. Australia’s cuisine is the food of our pioneers - the original Indigenous society, British convicts and colonists, Chinese gold hunters, European refugee migrants, Asian refugee migrants, other displaced migrants and people who just want to be here.

Chinese people are considered to be the oldest continuous immigrants to Australia outside of those from Great Britain. It was during the Australian Gold rushes in the 1850s and 1860s that large numbers of Chinese made their way to Australia. This migration shaped and influenced Australian policy for over a hundred years.

It is estimated that around 40 000 Chinese came to Australia to seek their fortunes during the gold rush. After the gold rush died down, they stayed and built a strong community in mining, agriculture, shopkeeping and hospitality. By the mid-1900s the Chinese were well known for their cafes and restaurants, introducing Asian ingredients, culinary techniques and styles to the Australian Cuisine. Today, there are still more Chinese restaurants than McDonald's outlets, and the Asian influence on our cuisine is indelible. Kung hei fat choy!