In just a few weeks, many families around the world will be gathering for multi-course meals to celebrate the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year). January 24th marks the end of the Year of the Pig and on January 25th the Year of the Rat begins.
According to Chinese astrology, those born in the Year of the Rat are adaptable, responsible, cheerful, clever and organized. If you were born in 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, or 2008, you are a Rat.
Although both my husband and I were born in Canada, most of our family (grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts) are immigrants from China, Taiwan or Hong Kong. My husband and I try to expose our kids to Chinese culture and traditions as much as we can. Chinese New Year is a big holiday for our families and we’ll be spending the week leading up to January 25th celebrating with friends and family.
The Lunar New Year is celebrated by the Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolians and Tibetans. Many of the festivities center around food and dishes are chosen because they symbolize health, prosperity, or luck.
Here are 12 foods and their symbolic meanings that you might find during Lunar or Chinese New Year:
1. Lettuce / Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables symbolize wealth and prosperity.
Usually served whole for New Year meals, a chicken represents family togetherness.
Also served whole, fish symbolizes abundance.
Dumplings appear on many New Year menus as they represent increased wealth in the coming year.
5. Nian Gao (Rice Cake)
The literal translation means “year higher” and those who eat it will have more prosperity and general improvement from the previous year. You can get the recipe for Stir Fried Sticky Rice Cake here.
Longer than normal noodles, they’re served uncut and represent a long life.
7. Tangerines, Oranges and Dragon Fruit
These fruit represent health and good luck.
Shrimp symbolize happiness and good fortune.
9. Spring Rolls
Spring rolls represent wealth (like gold bars).
Rice is believed to bring fertility and luck in the new year.
Either candy or dessert dishes, sweet foods represent a sweet life. You’ll often find tons of candy at Asian supermarkets during this time of year.
12. Hot Pot
Similar to fondue, everyone at the table cooks their food in one shared pot. Normally meat, dumplings, vegetables, seafood and noodles are cooked in a broth and hot pot symbolizes the coming together of family and friends.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Xin Nian Kuai Le, Gung Hay Fat Choy!