Chinese New Year food is a very important part of the Chinese New Year celebration, or Chinese Spring Festival. Families reunite, enjoying Chinese New Year traditions and time together. Having traditional meals is certainly a big part of the joy and fun.
With the spirit of renewal and new beginnings, there are rich fabric of symbols weaved into Chinese New Year traditions. They are a mix of belief, folklore and custom with the intention to influence the future, encouraging happiness and wealth into their lives.Some lucky symbols are also integrated into Chinese New Year food during the 15-day celebration, reflecting a cultural food heritage that spans more than 5,000 years.
Since food is about sustenance, health, abundance, home, family, wealth, sharing and preparing for the future, it has a subtle yet strong presence to represent positive things in life that give you energy, warmth and hope. No wonder it fits in well with the Chinese New Year's hopes and wishes.
There are various types of food folks eat in the New Year, especially on New Year's Eve. It's supposed to be the most luxurious meal of the entire year that lasts until past midnight if you stick to the tradition. Food is just so abundantly prepared. You may find more information on Chinese traditions and culture.
Nowadays, many families choose to go to a restaurant to have their Chinese New Year Eve meal. The picture on the right is a restaurant advertisement for the reunion meal.
You might have known some dishes of the Chinese New Year food, such as Chinese dumplings, spring rolls, and sticky rice cakes (Nian Gao). The major meal dishes are far too abundant and diversified to be known worldwide.
Chinese New Year food is about family reunion, so there are food items that express this idea by using symbolic ways, such as roundness, 8 or 9 equal items in one dish, etc.
Chinese New Year is about good wishes for the coming year, so there are dishes designed to send this message to fate, such as cooking fish whole instead of cutting it apart. Fish is a must for Chinese New Year's Eve meal, because fish in Mandarin sounds like Yu, which is a homophone of another character meaning "surplus", "more than you need". It expresses the wishes for prosperity.
One more custom about fish is that it's usually served as the last course, and it's not supposed to be totally eaten so there are leftovers on New Year's Day. This is meant to bring prosperity of the previous year into the New Year.
The same logic goes with a whole chicken, including head and feet, because it symbolizes a proper beginning and end to the year.
Clams and scallops are good food to enjoy during the New Year celebration, because their shape is similar to ancient Chinese coins, which in turn implies a good monetary fortune.
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