Certain dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year for their symbolic meaning. Lucky food is served during the 16-day festival season, especially New Year’s Eve, which is believed to bring good luck for the coming year. The auspicious symbolism of these food is based on their pronunciations or appearance.
Fish — Prosperity. In Chinese, “fish” (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like ‘surplus’. Chinese people always like to have a surplus at the end of the year, because they think if they have managed to save something at the end of the year, then they can make more in the next year.
Chinese Dumplings — Wealth. Legend has it that the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebrations, the more money you can make in the New Year.
Spring Rolls — Wealth. Spring rolls are usually eaten during the Spring Festival in mainland China, hence the name. Eating spring rolls is a way to welcome the arrival of spring. The golden cylindrical-shaped rolls represent gold bars — which symbolize wealth.
Glutinous Rice Cake — a Higher Income or Position. In Chinese, glutinous rice cake (年糕 Niángāo /nyen-gaoww/) sounds like it means “‘getting higher year-on- by year”‘. In Chinese people’s minds, this means the higher you are the more prosperous your business is a general improvement in life.
Sweet Rice Balls — Family Togetherness. According to records, before the Tang Dynasty (618–907), everyone made a kind of thin pancake with flour on the day of ‘the Beginning of Spring’. People put them in a dish and added special vegetables and fruits. This was called the ‘spring dish’ (春盘). It was sent to relatives and friends as a spring present and blessing.
Longevity Noodles — Happiness and Longevity. Longevity noodles (长寿面 Chángshòu Miàn /chung-show myen/) unsurprisingly symbolize a wish for longevity. Their length and unsevered preparation are also symbolic of the eater’s life.
Good Fortune Fruit — Fullness and Wealth. Certain fruits are eaten during the Chinese New Year period, such as tangerines and oranges, and pomeloes. They are selected as they are particularly round and “golden” in color, symbolizing fullness and wealth, but more obviously for the lucky sound they bring when spoken.
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