Happy Lunar New Year! The Lunar New Year always falls between late January and beginning of February. This year – Year of the Horse – the new year starts on the last day of January! In the Chinese culture, the celebration lasts 15 days, and is called the Spring Festival. Whether you’re going to temple, cleaning your house (before the new year, never during!), or decorating your home with lucky signs and symbols, you’ll have a blast participating in the celebrations and welcoming in the new year. What’s my favorite part? The food, of course! There are a bunch of “lucky” foods that are always featured at Lunar New Year dinners.
Oranges and tangerines symbolize good luck and wealth, respectively. These two fruits can be used for decoration or it can be exchanged between hosts, guests, friends, and family.
Noodles are a very important part of a Lunar New Year celebration meal. They symbolize a nice long life, which is why they are also eaten during birthdays. When cooking these long life noodles, make sure you don’t cut or break them into pieces. The longer the noodles are, the longer your life!
A whole chicken is also popular to serve because it represents togetherness. It illustrates the family coming together as a group. If you are serving a whole chicken, make sure you cook it with both the head and feet still attached. Pomelos and melons are also a symbol of togetherness in the Chinese culture.
Did you know that some Chinese people choose not to eat meat on the first day of the celebrations because every year is named after an animal? (I didn’t!) One popular thing to do during New Year’s Eve is for the family to get together and make dumplings or potstickers. Filled with meat, veggies, and sometimes seafood, dumplings are yummy appetizers for any meal.
Rice cakes are eaten throughout the year, but it is a dish that is commonly eaten during the Lunar New Year. It is good luck to eat this dish because nian gao is a homophone for “higher year.” It represents one raising taller each year.
Another important dish that is typically served during the New Year is fish, typically steamed. It is tradition to eat half of it on the day of, and save half for the next day. This suggests that there is abundance in the future. The word “fish” in Chinese sounds like the word “plenty.”
After celebrating the new year by filling everyone’s tummies, red envelops are usually passed out. Like the food, which symbolized wealth, luck, and abundance, the money in the red envelops represent the same kind of fortune and happiness. What dishes did you enjoy this year?