Origins & Information - Chinese New Year Good Luck Foods

My favorite holiday is tomorrow - Chinese New Year! Well technically it's the Lunar New Year but I'll lay claim to it because of my ethnicity. Whee-hee. When I realized that the day was going to fall on a Monday this year, I knew that the weekend before would be full of cooking and food-making at home. Of course, my mom does a mish-mash of both Chinese and Vietnamese foods but here is some information on things that are considered "good luck" for the Chinese during this festive time (who else has a 15-day long "holiday"?).

1. Tangerines and Oranges
Oh so true - our house is chock-full of them right now. The fruits symbolize wealth and luck and probably stem from how the Chinese words for gold and orange are very similar as well as how tangerine almost sounds like luck. Leaves are a plus atop the fruits as they symbolize longevity. It also helps that oranges are quite abundant in China. However, keep in mind that you shouldn't put four of them together as it's usually linked to death then.

2. Nian Gao 
A year cake whose name gao sounds similar to tall/high, it symbolizes reaching new heights. These are steamed, sweet, and contain glutinous rice flour, brown sugar, and oil. I don't think I've really had many of these though. Maybe next year?

3. Yuanbao (Jiaozi)
These are dumplings! Delicious and great symbols of prosperity as they look like the ancient Chinese currency with their ingot shapes and are also called jiaozi which was the name of the first Chinese bank note. These are most popular in northern China.

4. Long Noodles
This should have been a no-brainer if you are familiar with Chinese culture. The longer the noodle, the better - they represent life's longevity!

5. Pomelo
Thought to bring both prosperity and status for years to come, this fruit (similar to grapefruit) sounds like prosperity and status when the three words are said in Cantonese. I've got quite a lot of these in my garage right now from our tree - hopefully an auspicious year? 

6. Whole Fish
Fish is similar to abundance in Chinese, and the whole fish must be served to guarantee a good beginning and end to the year. However, the whole fish does not necessarily have to be eaten as any remainder eaten the second day represents spare.

7. The Tray of Togetherness
I had actually never heard of this until I looked up some things on Chinese New Year. It's a tray with eight compartments that are filled with symbolic snack foods for visitors during the holiday celebrations. Examples include preserved kumquats for prosperity, coconut for togetherness, longans to bring many sons, and red melon seeds for happiness.

In general, there is also a lot of sweets involved and eating jai (vegetarian), particularly if you are Buddhist. My mom prepares a lot of vegetarian stuff during the holiday which I love. Hope these help get you ready to celebrate the next coming weeks with lots of good luck foods and happy eating!