The glorious year of the Tiger has finally arrived, the time of the year when people gather with their loved ones to feast and welcome the new year together. The recurring theme of the Lunar New Year is good luck and prosperity - celebrating the success the new year brings. Just like other celebrations, Chinese New Year has symbolism and traditions - lion dances, fireworks, and of course, food!
Did you know..?
Certain dishes eaten during Chinese New Year are said to help bring good fortune. Each dish plays a pivotal role in the celebrations as they carry specific auspicious significance based on their appearance or pronunciations.
Here are 8 Lucky foods to eat this Chinese New Year:
1. Fish 鱼; yú
The Chinese pronunciation of fish (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like the word “abundance (余, yú)”. Eating fish symbolises having a surplus and abundance of fortune and luck every year. Usually, the type of fish chosen for the reunion dinner is based on auspicious homophonic.
How you present the fish holds a symbolic significance as well. The fish should be cooked and presented as a whole, with its head and tail attached - this signifies abundance and family unity.
Some would cook a bigheaded carp and only consume the middle - leaving the head and tail intact, manifesting the Chinese phrase “有头有尾 (yǒu tóu yǒu wěi)” which means to have a head and a tail. This acts as a reminder to finish what you started and hope for the best outcome.
2. Longevity noodle 长寿面 ; chángshòu miàn
Along with luck and prosperity, longevity is among the most revered concepts in Chinese culture. These noodles were originally called “soup pancakes” (汤饼 / tang miàn) before they became what they are known for now. These noodles represent longevity in life. You’re not allowed to cut the noodles into smaller pieces and should try to keep them at their original length. Cutting a strand of noodle symbolises cutting your life short, so this means no chewing and a lot of slurping!
The longer the noodle, the longer your life and the luckier you’ll be!
3. Sweet Rice Balls 汤圆; tāngyuán;
Tāngyuán is made from glutinous rice flour and rolled into round balls to be enjoyed during the celebration. Although small, they have an enormous symbolic presence. The shape of these sweet balls is perceived to look like the full moon, which symbolises harmony and togetherness.
Similarly, the pronunciation of tāngyuán sounds like a Chinese phrase that means “togetherness and the gathering of families”. So, many believe that they signify reunions and invite good fortune.
4. Glutinous Year Cake 年糕；nián-gāo
The Chinese word for this cake - "nián-gāo", is pronounced exactly like the word for “higher year”. Made of sticky glutinous or yellow rice, this New Year cake symbolises an increase in prosperity and signifies that every year will be higher than the ones before.
During ancient times, Nian Gao was only used as offerings to the gods and ancestors. Eventually, as time passed, it became a traditional dish eaten during the Lunar New Year and is now available every day of the year and in many different variations.
5. Dumplings 餃子; jiao zi
These Chinese-silver-ingots-lookalikes have existed for more than 1,800 years and is a Chinese New Year staple. In Chinese, dumplings sound similar to “交子 (jiāo zi)” where 交 (Jiāo) is defined as “exchange” and 子 (zi) is defined as the midnight hour. When combined, it signifies the interchanging of the old with the new.
They also bring prosperity! According to ancient legend, the number of dumplings you eat during the Chinese New Year predicts the amount of money you’ll make in the upcoming year (the more, the better).
6. Prosperity Cakes 发糕; fā gāo
Sometimes also called the Chinese smiling steamed cake, the word 发 (fā) translates directly to “prosperity”, coining the name Prosperity Cakes. Traditionally, fā gāo are commonly made in 3 colours: white, pink, and sometimes brown.
It looks similar to muffins or cupcakes, except fā gāo is made by steaming instead of baking. When steamed, it forms segments that resemble petals. The more segments the top of your prosperity cake has, the luckier you’ll be in the new year!
7. Nuts 坚果; jiān guǒ
Nuts represent longevity, happiness and health, and different kind of nuts owns special meanings too. The most common nuts to snack on during the celebration are peanuts. Also referred to as “longevity nuts”, peanuts signify vitality, longevity, honour and riches.
They’re commonly served without their shells, and many believe that eating them raw is the way to go.
8. Tangerine Oranges 柑橘; gān jú
It’s commonly believed that eating and displaying tangerines and oranges as decorations bring fortune and good luck because of their pronunciations. The Chinese words for “orange” and “tangerine” closely resemble the words for “luck” and “wealth”. Among other things, the gold colour of these fruits symbolises prosperity. But wait, there’s more! If the stem and leaves are still attached to the fruits, it symbolises fertility.
These auspicious fruits are commonly exchanged among friends and family and must be offered with both hands.
Feast on and embrace another year of good luck and prosperity! May the year of the Tiger be better than the years before.
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