Foods for a Happy Chinese New Year and What They Symbolize

The Chinese culture is rich in symbolism and tradition, and Chinese New Year is no exception. A happy Chinese New Year is celebrated at the start of spring, generally with fireworks, costumes and large meals. Chinese New Year food is symbolic and represents good luck, health and long life. If you understand the symbolism of the food, you can make your Chinese New Year that much more of a meaningful celebration. Here are some of the most common foods and what they represent.

Fish is a common staple in the Chinese diet and is a central dish during the New Year. In Chinese, the word "fish" actually means the same as "surplus" or "abundance." The fish is usually served steamed with the head and tail intact, a display that is thought to bring in a good beginning and end to the year. Shrimp is often served with the fish, and it symbolizes overall happiness and well-being.

Boiled dumplings are also 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. When dumplings are cooked with noodles, it is likened to golden thread and golden ingots. In southern China, dumplings also represent golden ingots and are said to bring wealth.

Other special 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.

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