Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, it is the most important Chinese festival of the year, celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. It’s a time of fresh beginnings, new hope and endless possibilities.
There are many traditions surrounding this festival like the reunion dinner held the night before Chinese New Year day, spring cleaning the house to sweep away ill luck and make way for good luck, the abundant usage of the colour red for prosperity, wearing new clothes and of course, the giving of ang pows (red packets).
As the Chinese believe that everything we do can influence how “lucky” the start of the year can be, we also take care to choose certain foods that are auspicious. That’s why you see these foods everywhere during the Chinese New Year. Like:
Photo from kuali.com
In Cantonese, mandarin oranges are called kum which also means gold. So lots of kum = lots of gold! It’s traditional to serve these to guests and also to include them into gift packs when we go visiting. When buying, remember that the ones feel heavier in your hand.
Photo from NST
This bright, colourful dish is a symbol of good luck, prosperity, health and all things auspicious so the Chinese usually try to get in at least one Yee Sang session during the festive period. It’s made with various types of shredded vegetables and raw fish (salmon is common) all mixed together with a special sauce. A popular custom is for everyone to stand up, chopsticks in hand, tossing the ingredients as high as possible while calling out wishes for luck and abundance.
Photo from kuali.com
The word for fish in Cantonese is yue which also means surplus and abundance. To serve fish during a meal is to hope for abundance all year round. The Chinese and white pomfret are particularly popular for their fine meat and delicate sweetness.
Photo from rasamalaysia.com
Another staple in Chinese New Year dishes, the abalone’s shape brings to mind gold ingots and its Chinese name “Pao Yue” also means “guaranteed to be easy”, symbolizing hopes for smooth going and ease in all efforts in the new year. It comes canned, dried or frozen and costs a pretty penny too.
Photo from gettingnowhere.net
This fruit, the largest in the citrus family, is popular for its rounded shape that tapers at the top because it symbolizes the rolling in of abundant prosperity. Its slightly bitter taste is also a great refresher for all the rich foods that you’re probably going to have. Have it fresh or toss it in a salad!