Top 10 Chinese Spring Festival Lucky Foods and Symblism

As a popular Chinese saying goes, food is heaven for the people. It is not surprising that food plays a major role in any Chinese festivals. Chinese people celebrate every traditional festival with the lucky food – which blends fruits and vegetables, meat and chicken, let alone Spring Festival – the most important festival all year round to celebrate the Chinese New Year. During Spring Festival, several "lucky" foods are served to celebrating Chinese New Year. As their names are homophones for words that mean good things, they are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. Here's the list of 10 most popular dishes that Chinese families will prepare for the 15-day-long celebration.

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1. Fish

Fish is always a must for New Year’s celebration because it is a symbol of prosperity. The pronunciation of "fish" (鱼 yú) in Chinese makes it a homophone for "surplus" (余), with a good wish for the next successful year.. It is customary to serve a fish for the New Year's Eve dinner.

Usually, fish is not cut into pieces, but cooked as a whole. When fish is placed on the dining table, its head must be at the elders, as a sign of respect. In most areas, fish is not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase "may there be surpluses every year" (年年有余 nián nián yǒu yú) sounds the same as "may there be fish every year".

Cook fish in China

2. Dumplings

Chinese dumplings or Jiaozi are one of the major foods eaten during the Chinese New Year and year round in the Northern provinces. Jiaozi symbolize wealth because its shape resembles a gold or silver ingot and it is given a hope for getting more money in the New Year. Chinese people make dumplings after reunion dinner on New Year's Eve, and the preparation is similar to packaging luck inside the dumpling. When people eat Jiaozi around midnight, they hope that it will bring prosperity and good luck for the forthcoming year.

Chinese dumpling

3. Glutinous Rice Balls (Tangyuan)

Glutinous Rice Balls also called Tangyuan and Yuexiao, is a boiled glutinous rice ball stuffed with sugar, sesame, rose petals, bean paste or others. Its name "Tang-yuan" (汤圆 Tāngyuán) in Chinese has similar pronunciation as the word for "reunion", symbolizing family unity, completeness and happiness. It is eaten traditionally on Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the 1st month in Chinese lunar calendar. Thus, Chinese people also call the day "Yuanxiao Festival". It officially ends the 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations.

Must-have food for Chinese New Year

4. Glutinous Rice Cake

Glutinous rice cake or Niangao (年糕 Niángāo) literally means "new year cake" with a homophonous meaning of "higher year". It is a kind of sticky cake made of glutinous rice flour and sugar in the shape of rectangle or circular. The color of the sugar used determines the color of Niaogao (white or brown). Chinese people usually send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days of the New Year. It is considered good luck to eat nian gao during Spring Festival, for its symbolism of "promoting year by year".

5. Spring Rolls

An important dish of China’s culinary culture, spring rolls represent blessings and good fortunate.

Chinese lucky food

6. Noodles

Noodles symbolize a long life, and you’re discouraged to cut them.

lucky food in China

7. Chicken

A whole chicken served during the Chinese Spring Festival symbolizes the family union. Chicken feet are must for labor force and businessmen to collect money, while chicken wings for young people to fly high and get a good future. For some parts in Hubei province in Central China, people will have the chicken soup for the hope of wellness, health and safety.

Chinese cuisine

8. Bean Sprout

In Shanghai, bean sprout is a popular dish for family reunion dinner on New Year Eve, and represents promotion at work and making a fortune.

Chinese vegetables

9. Meat/Pork

Many Spring Festival foods involves meat, including braised pork in brown sauce, meatballs, steamed pork with rice flour, stir-fried pork slices, etc.

Chinese banquet dishes

10. Candies

Candies symbolize a happy, sweet life.

Snacks for Chinese Spring Festival

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