Food for a Lucky Chinese New Year

Lucky Chinese New YearThe Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar. Thus, it does not always fall on the first day of January. For 2016, February 8 will be New Year’s Day and traditional Chinese celebrations will include not only a barrage of firecrackers but also a menu consisting of dishes to bring good luck.

Oranges and Tangerines for Good Luck and Wealth

If you’ve ever wondered why most Chinese restaurants will slice up an orange for you at the end of your meal, you will be glad to know this fruit symbolizes good luck for you. In Community Table’s “7 Foods to Eat for Good Luck on Chinese New Year”, Shannon McCook says: Displayed as decorations and given as gifts, the tangerine is said to represent wealth and the orange brings good luck. While their bright vibrant colors lend themselves to the spirit of the day, their associations with wealth and luck originate in how similar the Cantonese word for tangerine is to wealth, and the Cantonese word for orange is to luck.”

Noodles for Long Life

Noodles are a quintessential part of any celebratory Chinese meal because they symbolize longevity, so you can expect noodles to be served on a New Year table. Regardless of the way these are prepared, the one requirement is that they must be uncut; sometimes eating these good luck noodles can be quite a challenge. Those who want to enjoy the benefit that this custom brings must try to eat at least one totally unbroken noodle. Slurp!

A Whole Fish for Abundance

In Chowhound’s  Ten Good Luck Foods for the New Year, Roxanne Webber quotes Doris Lum, president of the Association of Chinese Cooking Teachers : “The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance, says Lum. It’s important that the fish is served with the head and tail intact, writes Gong, “to ensure a good start and finish and to avoid bad luck throughout the year.”

Sticky Rice Cake for a Year with High Hopes

One dish that is sure to make an appearance on New Year’s Day is the “niangao”, a gelatinous cake made of sticky rice. Literally, the word “ningao” means sticky cake, but it is a homophone for “year tall”. Thus, this dessert is used to symbolize the wish for a year that will bring an increase in wealth, salary, or position.

Dumplings to Capture the Good Wishes of Generations

The humble dumpling assumes a very significant role during the Chinese New Year season. In the most traditional families, members will prepare these dumplings together and serve them at midnight. These dumplings are to be shaped like the ingots used as currency in China until the 1900s. It is believed that dumplings in this ancient shape will symbolize not only the good wishes of those present at the celebration; they will also capture the good wishes made by past generations.

A Tray of Togetherness

You may have seen circular lacquer trays (usually red) in oriental stores and you may have thought that these are perfect for a selection of tidbits to serve during parties. They are that, but on New Year’s Day, these serve a special purpose. These trays are called “Trays of Togetherness”, and it is customary to give and receive theme. The trays have eight sections, eight being the number for good luck. Usually, these sections will hold dried coconut friendship and unity, kumquats for prosperity, lotus seeds for fertility, candied melon for health, peanuts for long life, watermelon seeds for happiness, and lychee nuts for enduring family ties.

Chinese tradition dictates that certain things must be avoided when serving these lucky foods. One rule is that these must be never be presented in sets of four because this word also sounds like death. In all these good luck foods, however, all have a common fundamental ingredient: New Year is the time to wish the best for one’s family and friends, and food is the perfect medium to show this.

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