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Top Food Traditions To Celebrate The Chinese New Year

Updated on June 16, 2011

Chinese New Year:Food Traditions

Symbolic Significance Of Food During Chinese New Year

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Rising Abundance
Spring Rolls
Gold Bars
wish, abundance
Sticky Rice Cake
Sweetness, Family reunion

2010-The Year Of The Tiger

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is being celebrated this 2010 on 14 th February coinciding with Valentine's Day. Called the YEAR Of THE TIGER, this year heralds positiveness. Traditions, superstitions and family togetherness mark the two week long Chinese New Year celebrations complete with Chinese Lanterns, Dragons, Togetherness Trays, the colour Red and of course, the all important Chinese food.

Chinese cuisine is among the best in the world and Chinese restaurants are always popular. Food is always prepared fresh and the ingredients, particularly seafood has to be live or cooked within one hour of it being killed. Food is either deep fried, shallow fried, stir fried, braised, boiled or steamed and a dish can be prepared using a combination of 2 or more methods. Seafood, pork, beef, chicken are cooked in a variety of ways using a variety of Chinese sauces and peanut oil, rice wine, vinegar. Vegetables, seaweed, mushrooms, are used in various combinations to produce, soups, noodle, fried rice, and a host of vegetable dishes. Holding a pair of chopsticks to deftly serve and eat is the fine art of the Chinese dining experience. But never drop your chopsticks during the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Why do some foods become symbolic during the Chinese New Year?

Some foods are particularly at the table because of shape, size and colour.

Food prepared during the Chinese New Year takes on special meaning to herald prosperity and longevity, luck among others. Some foods have a special symbolic significance and are a must at the table. At the Chinese New Year Eve’s dinner, large family gatherings are part of the celebration and a whole chicken orfishis served at the table to symbolize family togetherness. Noodles represent long life and it is considered bad luck to cut them. Spring rolls are specially served along with clams as they symbolize wealth. The shape of spring rolls remind them of gold bars, while clams resemble bouillion.

Certain foods are served especially for the way the name sounds in Chinese language.

Oranges and tangerines are handed around as the Chinese name sounds like wealth and luck respectively. These fruits also signify good health and long life. Tangerines with leaves intact remind them of long lasting relationships that are fruitful and multiply as in bearing children. Pomelos have a Chinese word that means “to have”, signifying abundance. Lettuce wraps are filled with other “lucky” food and served as the word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune.

Fish and chicken is always served whole during the Chinese New Year Eve dinner.

Chicken is served whole, complete with head, feet and tail to signify family togetherness.

Fish is customarily served whole at the end of the evening meal, complete with head and tail signifying a good beginning and the end of the new year and of course, abundance. The Chinese word for fish “Yu” sounds like the Chinese words for wish and abundance.

The Sticky rice cake is a must at the family meal as the round shape signifies family reunion . The sweetness of these rice cakes symbolize a rich , sweet life while the layers signify the rising abundance for the coming year.

Wishing for good fortune, abundance, longevity, luck and wealth for one and all, marks the celebrations of the Chinese New Year. And as you can see, food plays a vital role.

Jai, a combination of food represents good fortune. It consists of ginkgo nut,black moss,dried bean curd,bamboo shoots,vermicelli,and scallion.

In general, all foods that sound and look like wealth and abundance are part of the menu.

All Chinese people wear brand new clothes in bright red as it signifies happiness, also gold/orange signify wealth and happiness. Homes and streets are decorated with red Chinese lanterns. Fireworks and dragons are part of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Greet everyone this Chinese New Year, "Gung Hey Fat Choy" meaning "Wishing You Prosperity & Wealth".

What do you generally associate Chinese New Year With?

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    • Purple Perl profile imageAUTHOR

      Esther Shamsunder 

      10 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Neither did I ,Princessa until I began to look for a topic to write on. And, Princessa,do not forget to wear bright red for the Chinese dinner. I know you will be the prettiest there.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      I never new about the symbolism of food. It sounds fantastic. I am having a Chinese diner on Saturday 13th, and now I know exactly what I'll be asking for :)


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