The Year of the Pig is finally here and what better way to start the new year than with food! When it comes to Chinese New Year, there are certain dishes that are eaten for their symbolism. These traditional “lucky foods” were chosen based on their appearance and pronunciation in the Chinese language. Not only that, but the way these foods are eaten and prepared also signify how the upcoming year will go.
Steamed fish is a common dish you’ll find at any New Year’s Eve celebration dinner. as it sounds like the word “surplus” in Chinese. Because it is meant to signify hope for a surplus amount of money saved, the fish is meant to be eaten last — also, you should always have a bounty of leftovers. How the fish is placed on the table also has a symbolic meaning.
Growing up in a Chinese household, I remember having to make lucky dumplings on New Year’s Eve. They are meant to represent wealth, as they are shaped like Chinese silver ingots. I would always be told that the more dumplings I ate, the wealthier I would become in the new year.
Glutinous Rice Cakes
This has to be by far my favorite dish to eat during the New Year. My grandma would always make batches and batches of these and her kitchen would be filled with the smell of rice cakes. This dish is supposed to represent a more productive new year with a better income and employment position. Eating this is supposed to improve your overall quality of life throughout the new year.
Sweet Rice Balls
This dessert dish represents togetherness and reunion due to the round shape of the balls. I would say this dish is a crowd favorite — it’s a nice, sweet end to the celebration that only puts smiles on people’s faces.
Longevity noodles are a common dish in almost any Chinese celebration as they symbolize a long and healthy life. Their length represents the eater’s life, so make sure to never cut these noodles.
Fruits like tangerines or oranges are often eaten during the Chinese New Year as they’re chosen for their round, gold-ish appearance. They are supposed to bring good fortune, luck and fullness.
One of the best parts of the Chinese New Year always ends up being the sweets most Chinese families dole out. Any given party will always had an assortment of sweets packed into a golden and/or red package. Eating sugary foods signifies a sweet start to the new year. They usually come in the form of candied fruits and vegetables, like lotus roots, coconut strips, coconut wedges, winter melons, kumquats and water chestnuts.