Chinese New Year: Customs, Foods and Good Fortune!
Chinese New Year begins January 28 this year. This is an important holiday to the Chinese. In fact, it is as Christmas is to those of us in America. Most factories and stores shut down for a period of up to two weeks. It is a time to spend with family and celebrate ancestors.
As Chinese would stay up on the New Year’s Eve till the early morning of the first day of the new year, when the very moment of the new year arrives people would say ‘Bainian, Bainian’to everyone around and some auspicious phrases.
Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality
Food is an important part of celebrating Chinese New Year. Many foods have symbolic meanings in the Chinese culture. This is somewhat similar to the practice of Americans eating certain types of food on New Year’s Day. The Chinese try to eat something that has a positive or hopeful connotation in their culture.
• Chicken and fish, symbolize happiness and prosperity and they are usually served whole. This is to ensure abundance from the start to finish of the year.
• Oranges are plentiful in China, so it makes sense that dishes that contain oranges represent good fortune. Also, the word for tangerine sounds like the word for gold, so it is served for good fortune.
• Noodles represent longevity so, they should never be cut! Same goes for leafy greens and green beans.
• Duck symbolizes fidelity
• Eggs symbolize fertility
• The word for Turnips (cai tou) means good luck in Chinese, so turnips may be served during this celebration.
• Bean curd or tofu, however, is avoided because its white color suggests death and misfortune.
• Sweets. Putting out a tray of sweets encourages a sweet life. Also the word Nian Gao had dual meanings “cake” and “high”. So Nian Gao is served because it has them meaning of reaching new heights in the new year.
• Yuanbao (Jiaozi). These are dumplings are very important in the Chinese culture as they symbolize good luck. They are made traditionally like you would expect, with pork or cabbage wrapped in dough and boiled.
But the good news is you don’t have to be Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year.
• You can have a party and invite your friends to all wear red. This is a very popular color with lots of positive connotation.
• You can have lanterns strung on your deck.
• Prepare or buy fortune cookies to serve your guests.
• At midnight, open your doors and windows, which is symbolic of letting go of the problems of the previous year.
Here are some menu suggestions:
Chicken Lo Mein
Want to test your knowledge of Chinese New Year customs?
Chinese New Year’s Quiz