Enjoy a Gluten-Free Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year, otherwise known as spring festival is one of the most important events in the Chinese Lunar calendar. It is celebrated to give thanks for a year of hard work and wish for a lucky and prosperous upcoming year. There are also many age-old traditions that surround the new year including reunion dinner, spring cleaning, and exchanging oranges.
For many, the new year conjures images of visiting relatives, a long weekend break, lion dances, giving (and collecting) red packets, and most importantly; yummy food.
For those who don’t know, CNY is to Singaporean Chinese as Thanksgiving is to Americans.
For those of us who struggle with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, however, festivities such as these can be the hardest – well meaning relatives and friends proffer traditional treats and the inquisition sets in about why we won’t eat the yummy treats. This potentially serves to dampen anyone’s festive mood.
Here are some tips for how to survive (and enjoy) this festive season just like everyone else!
Tip #1: Come prepared
Look at Chinese New Year as any other occasion involving food – come prepared. For some, that means looking at the menu or checking with the host ahead of time to make sure there is food that you are able to have. For others, this means bringing or packing your own food so that you won’t go hungry during the meal. Sometimes, that may mean eating a small meal at home beforehand to make it easier to say no to the gluten-filled treats that abound. In any case, remember to bring medication (if you need it) in case something goes wrong.
Tip #2: Bake and share your own gluten-free Chinese New Year snacks
Can’t have the yummy pineapple tarts and addictive love letters? That’s okay. The internet is abound with gluten-free Chinese New Year snacks that are not only easy to make but yummy too (you have our word for it). You could even bring your baked goodies to reunions and/or package them to give to others.
Tip: don’t tell them its gluten-free until they’ve tried it; often, people have a preconceived notion that gluten-free means healthy and is not tasty. Share the love!
Tip #3: Have a discussion plan
Instead of getting flustered by the questions that you know will come, think of the responses ahead of time. Instead of letting a relative ruin your mood, educate your relative on what gluten is (“No, it’s not just bread”) so that she/he has a better understanding.
Make it your job to educate more people so that they have a better understanding or grasp of what you are going through. Most of the time, people don’t have a clue and are not asking out of spite, but out of sheer ignorance. Remember to practice grace and kindness. In other words, don’t expect your 95 year old uncle to get it.
At the same time, be prepared for repetitive comments and insensitive remarks by informing close friends and family members who can help steer the conversation away or have a strategy to calm yourself down when emotions run high.
Tip #4: Focus on the reason for the season
It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype at times (as it is with many other celebrations such as Christmas and thanksgiving), that we forget the main intent behind the celebration. For Chinese New Year, this is giving thanks for the past year and ushering in the new year with those that you love. Why not suggest doing something else during this short holiday – go hike up a mountain together, watch a movie, visit Chinatown for those night lights, the list is endless.
Are you inspired to start baking your own gluten-free CNY treats? Check out recipe for Gluten-Free Pineapple Tarts – easy directions to make the cookies step by step.
About the Author
Although she is actually half American, Nicole Friets considers herself a true blue Singaporean as she has lived there her entire life. When she is not writing for various publications, she can be found thrashing CrossFit WODS (or at least trying to), burning her thighs at barre, or finding some excuse to soak up the sun. In other words, this self confessed diehard Disney fan finds it hard to sit still – unless there’s a rerun of FRIENDS showing!