Top 6 Traditional Chinese New Year Food and their Meanings

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Photo by Joshua Resnick
Photo by stafichukanatoly and Couleur from pixabay

Interestingly, the Chinese Zodiac is a continuous cycle of 12 years, where an animal represents each year. These Zodiac signs go in order as follows:

  • Rat
  • Ox
  • Tiger
  • Rabbit
  • Dragon
  • Snake
  • Horse
  • Goat
  • Monkey
  • Rooster
  • Dog
  • Pig

It is so amazing that each animal has its own unique characteristic. Well, 2023 is the year of the rabbit! This year, we get to celebrate the personality trait of the rabbit, which is kind, elegant, responsible and quiet. Really, now? How many rabbits you know have those traits? 🤔 Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals in Asia and has been celebrated for thousands of years with various types of activities. As an important time for family reunion, food and drink are a crucial part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Certain dishes are eaten during this period for their symbolic meanings. In this article, you will find the Top 6 Chinese New Year food and their meaning.

1. Spring Rolls – Wealth

Spring roll is a special dish, popular not just in China, but loved throughout South East Asia too. Spring rolls are cylindrical-shaped rolls filled with meat and vegetables. All those delicious fillings are wrapped in a thin dough which gets deep-fried until golden. These spring rolls resemble GOLD BARS and they are eaten during Chinese New Year to attract wealth for the coming year.

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2. Glutinous Rice Cake — a Higher Income or Position

In Chinese cuisine, rice cakes are very popular. The main ingredients of rice cake include sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, Chinese dates, and lotus leaves. Eating glutinous rice cake is believed to improve grades in studies, make children taller (the taller, the better), rise in your career, and generate growth in your business. Otherwise, it is a lucky food to be eaten in CNY with the purpose of getting “higher” year by year. In Chinese people's mind set, the higher you are, the more prosperous you are - and the more influential you are.

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3. Whole Chicken — ‘Luck’ and ‘Wholeness’

Chicken is normally served as a whole bird and typically braised or roasted as a whole to symbolise unity and wholeness as a family. In addition, presenting the whole chicken, including its head and feet represents the full circle – a good beginning and end to the year. According to Chinese tradition, a whole chicken is firstly offered to ancestors and gods for blessings and protection. Plus, it is very interesting that the breadwinner of some families gets to eat chicken feet as doing so might bring more wealth and luck for the family.

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4. Shrimp — Happiness

Shrimp is also an essential dish that Chinese people usually bring on to their dining table. It is surprising that the Chinese word for the crustacean means laughter, also known as “ha”. Thus, bringing shrimp dishes onto the table and eating them enjoyably characterises happiness as well as having long lives and good fortune.

Photo by Cegoh from pixabay

5. Fruit: Tangerine and Pomelo – “Continuous Prosperity” “Luck”

Tangerines and pomelos are some of the most widely-eaten fruits during the Chinese New Year period. In Chinese culture, the golden colour of tangerines, oranges and mandarins stands for fullness and wealth. Therefore, Chinese people believe that eating and displaying tangerine during CNY will bring them good luck and better fortune. Likewise, pomelo is also a significant fruit, believed to bring continuous prosperity. There is also a Chinese saying that goes, “the more you eat pomelo, the more wealth it will bring.” So what are you waiting for?!

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6. Vegetable - spring’, ‘renewal’, ‘energy’ and “wealth”

Here comes another popular CNY menu. CNY reunion dinner is not complete without vegetables. This vegetable menu symbolises spring, renewal, energy and wealth. It is so meaningful to have vegetables during the spring festival and each of them signify different meanings. Let’s see two vegetables.

  • Lettuce 生菜: A word for lettuce in China sounds like a word for ‘becoming wealthy’ ”升财”.
  • Baby Bok Choy 小白菜 : This one represent “good fortune” for coming years

Photo by Nungning20,AlexRaths and Kai Wong from Getty Image

Our All Things Delicious Team really hopes that you will enjoy this blog. We hope you’ll have a memorable CNY reunion dinner with meaningful foods to bring good fortune and wealth for you and your family in the coming years.