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Okay. You might think that we're well into 2014, but to many people we have just begun the Year of the Horse.


The Lunar New Year is celebrated across China, not to mention many homes in the United States. For Ying Compestine, the author of cookbooks and children's books, the Chinese New Year is part of life.

GREENE: And the rotating symbols for each year mean a lot.

YING COMPESTINE: The Year of the Horse is meant for those people that are determined and want to reach their goal, they will get rewarded for their hard work and they should go for it.

GREENE: We reached Compestine at her home in Northern California, where she was cleaning and decorating, both of which are rituals of the New Year.

COMPESTINE: I always have firecrackers hanging from the ceiling to scare away the evil spirits, red tablecloth, double (unintelligible) and some Chinese calligraphy for the good, happy year, and the red, of course, represent good luck. I even have a red door.

INSKEEP: Compestine came to America in the 1980s after growing up in China. New Years in her youth were austere. Children traditionally get haircuts and new clothes for the New Year, hoping evil spirits won't recognize them, but sometimes her family could not afford that.

COMPESTINE: I remember my mother would cook on the coal stove, would have to go out to wait in a long line to buy the coal and, you know, one stove, that would take days to prepare all these dishes. And my favorite dish is dumplings. You know, when I was growing up in China, oil is rationed, so we always, every year, instead of the deep fried or pan fried dumplings, in my home we always have steamed dumplings, which is, even today, still my favorite.

GREENE: And she offers her own take on the traditional dumpling in her most recent cookbook, "Cooking With An Asian Accent" and the recipe is at

INSKEEP: This New Year's weekend, Compestine is serving symbolic dishes, ribs for strength.

GREENE: Fish for prosperity.

INSKEEP: Long noodles for a long life.

GREENE: And sticky sweet rice cakes. The round shape evokes the family circle and the circle of friendship.

COMPESTINE: Now, after this, I'm really excited to the kitchen to start cooking.

INSKEEP: But before she went to the kitchen, Ying Compestine said one more thing to our producers. She'd heard that my family includes a daughter adopted from China, so she sent us a message.

COMPESTINE: (Speaking foreign language) - so what I just said in Chinese is wish you a happy Chinese New Year. I hope you and your family will have a chance to celebrate Chinese New Year with me someday, together.

INSKEEP: Oh, thank you. I'd love that. I'd love that, especially if you're cooking. That's cookbook and children's book author Ying Compestine. Happy New Year.

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