Just like Christmas in West, the New Year in the lunar calendar, or the Spring Festival, is the most important festival to all the people who trace their roots back to China. The New Year season extends officially about two weeks, with many days preparing in advance. “Lucky” foods play a vital part in most of the festivities and is served through the whole celebration.
Jiao Zi (Chinese Dumpling)
Boiled dumplings are traditionally served at a Chinese New Year dinner. In northern China, the dumplings are filled with meat and are eaten to usher in wealth and good luck for the New Year. Sometimes a coin will be inserted into one of the dumplings, and the person who bites into it is destined to have plenty of wealth in the year ahead. Chinese dumpling looks like the golden ingots (Yuan Bao) used during the Ming Dynasty for money and the name sound like the word for the earliest paper money, so serving them brings the promise of wealth and prosperity.
Nian Gao (New Year Cake)
The northerners eat Jiao Zi, but southerners like to eat Nian Gao, which translates to “New Year Cake”. In Chinese, Gao is a homonym for high. Nian Gao is also called Nian Nian Gao, which is a homonym for “higher each year”, symbolizing progress and promotion at work and in daily life and improvement in life year by year.
New Year Cake is a sweet, sticky, brown cake made from rice flour and sugar, a kind of glutinous white cake in the shape of rectangle. Often given as a gift, it is delicious when steamed, fried with eggs or even eaten cold.
Fish also plays a great role in festive celebrations. The word for fish, “Yu,” sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. As a result, on New Year’s Eve it is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.
Other Special Foods
Other symbolic and lucky foods include noodles, which often symbolize longevity and a hope for endless good fortune, good luck and prosperity in the coming year. Peanuts and garlic chives also mean everlasting or long life. For wealth, you should eat oranges, bamboo shoots, egg rolls and black moss seaweed. The word “oyster”means “good things” and is often eaten with rice noodles at New Year feasts, especially in southern China.