The date of Chinese New Year is different from the regular New Year’s date because the Chinese follow a different calendar, which is based on the phases of the moon. Each New Year in Chinese culture is represented by a particular animal that symbolizes certain qualities of those who are born in that year.
With Chinese New Year comes wonderful traditions, my favorite of course is the food! When I was young we would hold our celebration at my Chinese grandparent’s house on New Year’s Eve. I remember the red ornamental décor. There were good luck symbols above the doors and other Chinese characters hung around the house. My fondest memory was the wonderful smell of food that would come streaming out of my grandmother’s kitchen! She would make several dishes from sweet and sour shrimp to dumplings. Family members would come over with even more food. There would be noodles, fish, chicken, and many uniquely traditional dishes.
All of this wonderful food is meant to symbolize happiness, wealth, and prosperity for the New Year. Below is a list of the most popular Chinese dishes that are served during the New Year and what they symbolize. Choose a few to serve at your own Chinese new year’s party and enjoy!
- Jiaozi - These are wonderfully steamed dumplings which are also known as pot stickers are usually served on new years eve. They represent wealth because they are shaped like Chinese money from the past.
- Buddha’s Delight - This is a vegetarian dish which is served on the first day of the New Year. There are so many wonderful ingredients in this dish and they all represent good luck and fortune. If you are going to make this dish for the new year do not add fresh tofu. Fresh tofu symbolizes misfortune and death.
- Chicken lettuce wraps - These can be served at any time of the year and represent prosperity.
- Noodles - Noodles represent longevity, but be sure not to cut them because it is a sign of bad luck if they are cut.
- Whole fish - Make sure to keep the head and tail in tact to represent abundance, togetherness, and prosperity for the new year.
- Chicken - Just like the whole fish, the chicken must have the head, tail and feet in tact to represent completeness in the new year.
- Peking duck - Peking duck served whole represents fidelity. These can usually be found already made in Chinese grocery stores and can simply be reheated in the oven and then served.
- Sweet and sour pork - This popular dish represents abundance of grandchildren in the new year.
- Clam and scallop dishes - These dishes represent wealth and prosperity.
- Spicy dishes - Such as Kung Pao chicken, and Szechuan beef cleanse sins and problems in the new year.
- Oyster dishes - These dishes represent good fortune.
Snacks and Appetizers
- Egg rolls and spring rolls- These are wonderful and represent wealth.
- Lychee nuts - These can be served in a bowl or tray and set out with other fruit and nuts. They represent close family ties.
- Oranges - These represent wealth.
- Peanuts - This wonderful and salty snack represents a long life in the future.
- Tangerines - As with oranges, these are served for luck.
- Sweet red bean dessert soup - I remember my grandmother drinking this towards the end of the night. It is meant to symbolize togetherness.
- Sweet sesame balls - These are wonderful and represent prosperity.