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Chinese New Year (Year of the Dragon) and American Heart Month

American Heart Month is designed to make you aware of heart healthy ideas and by following some of these easy tips:
Image of dried fruits
Don’t stand around the food area at parties; this only invites unconscious snacking on usually high-fat foods. Serve plenty of fruits and vegetables, cut into easy bite-size pieces or mixed into a party mix. Melissa’s has some great suggestions like Dried Sweet Roasted Corn, dried fruits like Dried Cranberries, Dried Blueberries and Dried Strawberries, trail mix with raisins or our new delicious nuts and berries mix. Eating these healthy snacks can also help fulfill your More Matters health requirement!

Don’t eat wasted calories that have no nutritional value. Stay away from high-sugar sodas (even diet sodas) and head to the bottled water or no calorie flavored waters. Remember, drinking 8 glasses of water a day will help you stay healthy and look better.

Meat alternatives are the greatest thing created. Veggie hot dogs and burgers made with low-fat vegetarian ingredients are a winner for taste and health. Eat them with all the extras like lettuce, tomato, onions, even avocado for a very tasty meal; Stay away from the fatty mayo and secret sauce! Use mustard or low-fat condiments instead. You can even top them with veggie cheese!
Image of organic tofu
Eat tofu in your daily diet. Studies have shown that tofu can help reduce the risk for cancer. It can be used as a sauce ingredient instead of mayo and even substituted for eggs. Try cubing some into your next stir-fry or soup and see how easy it really is. Make 2012 a healthy year. Starting with February American Heart Month, you will be well on your way!

Chinese New Year is January 23, 2012 this year. It is the Year of the Dragon and the Chinese lunar year 4709. Chinese New Year celebrations last for about one month after the initial celebration. It isn’t just a single day celebration, but there are celebrations and festivities lasting up to 30 days! Chinese New Year celebrations have many traditions which include:

Plants and Flowers:
Every traditional Chinese household should 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. Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Year’s Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. In more elaborate settings, plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs, the grouping symbolizing friends. The plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance; the bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility and its flexible stems for furniture and other articles; the evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness. Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow, azalea, peony and water lily or narcissus.

The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of any fruits. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have flowers and floral decorations. They are the emblems of reawakening of nature; they are also intimately connected with superstition and with the wish for happiness during the ensuing year.
Image of citrus fruit
Oranges and Tangerines:
Etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines and enclose a lai see when visiting family or friends anytime during the month long Chinese New Year celebration. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one’s relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

Candy Tray:
The 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 places a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.
  • Kumquat - symbolizes prosperity (gold)
  • Coconut - symbolizes togetherness
  • Peanuts - symbolizes long life
  • Longan - symbolizes many good sons
  • Buddha's Hand - given as gifts to represent good luck and fortune for the year
  • Mandarin Oranges - represent wealth
  • Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan) - encourages youth and wealth
  • Lettuce - also symbolizes wealth
  • Mushrooms - represent coins signifying riches and prosperity
  • Green Onions - symbolize brilliance and intelligence
  • Won Tons are served to guests as a blessing for good fortune.
  • Asian Noodles are served to represent long life… the longer the noodle, the longer the life.
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