Chinese New Year food is a key ingredient to the most important holiday of the year. The food is at the center of celebrations bringing family together to exchange gifts, reminisce and look forward to the new year. Let’s take a look at the important role of Chinese New Year dishes.

Chinese are can be superstitious when it comes to Chinese New Year food. Eating the right food could mean prosperity in the new year, while the wrong food could misfortune. Most traditional Chinese New Year foods are served because their name sounds like another word meaning happiness, wealth or good fortune. Other foods are chosen because they resemble gold or money.

  1. Whole Fish (abundance, prosperity)
    The Chinese word for fish sounds like the Chinese word for “surplus.” Fish is typically served whole at the end of the meal as a sign of surplus at the end of the year. The surplus is seen as an important factor to making more next year.

    whole fish served for Chinese New Year
    Photo credit Tong Tsu Yu, used with permission under the Creative Commons license.
  2. Broccoli or Cauliflower (riches)
    Broccoli or cauliflower dishes are served because of the this stalks. Each stalk symbolizes a blossoming new year.
  3. Noodles (longevity)
    The length of noodles represent longevity, but don’t cut them or you’ll be cutting your life short. Check out Jaden’s recipe for Chinese Broccoli Beef Noodle Stir Fry
  4. Shrimp – Happiness
    In Chinese, the word for “shrimp” is pronounced “ha.” Because it sounds like laughter, shrimp is served symbolizing a happy year ahead.
  5. Jiaozi or Chinese dumplings – prosperity
    Chinese dumplings are classic Chinese New Year food, typically enjoyed on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Their history dates back more than 1,800 years. Perfectly wrapping dumplings is tricky and takes practice. Check out this video to perfect your Chinese dumplings.

    Chinese New Year Dumplings, Jaiozi
    Photo credit Vera & Jean-Christophe, used with permission under the Creative Commons license.
  6. Oranges/tangerines – wealth
    Oranges are a popular symbol of good luck because of the similarity of the words “orange” and “luck” in Chinese. They are also a great gift for the host if you’re attending a Chinese New Year’s dinner.
  7. Spring Rolls – wealth
    Spring rolls’ are Chinese New Year food for wealth. Their cylindrical shape resembles gold bars.

    Chinese New Year spring rolls
    Photo credit Ian Britton, used with permission under the Creative Commons license.
  8. Sweets – sweet life in the new year
    A popular Chinese New Year sweet is the Glutinous Rice Cake (“Nian gao” in Chinese). The sweetness of the cake symbolizes a sweet, rich life. The cake’s layers symbolize abundance in the new year.

Learn more about Chinese New Year

[gdlr_styled_box content_color=”#2e383a” background_color=”#f2f2f2″]This is a guest post from the Director of Project Partner, Kristen Levitt. In addition to her passion for ending the Poverty Crisis in rural China, she enjoys cooking and baking.[/gdlr_styled_box]


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