Lunar New Year: Celebrate With Traditional Delicacies
Image Credit: Steamed fish

The Lunar New Year is one of the biggest Asian cultural celebrations across the world. Ushering in the Year of the Rabbit from January 23rd, the holiday signifies fresh starts and the renewal of prosperity, happiness, and health. It's the time of rebirth and optimism. It is the time to move on from the past and anticipate a year brimming with opportunities.

The richness of Chinese culture comes from spending time with your loved ones, and what better way to dive into the festivities than food? Like every festival, the grand celebration of the Chinese New Year begins with people preparing lucky delicacies, eaten specifically during this time for their symbolic belief to bring good luck for the coming year. 

To get you started on the festive vibe, we have curated a list of delicacies eaten during this 15-day-long celebration, along with their significance:

1.    Whole Steamed Fish - a sign of surplus 

Preparing a whole steamed fish is a statement of surplus, which is usually appreciated towards the end of the year in the hopes that it will draw more guests in the coming year. The Chinese people enjoy having a surplus at the end of the year because they believe that if they are able to save anything, they will be able to earn more the following year. Carp and catfish are preferred fish because their names resemble "good luck," "gifts," and "the year's excess." The fish must be steam-cooked, and it's great if there are any leftovers, especially the tail.

2.    Chicken - a sign of luck and wholeness

To represent "unity" and "wholeness," as well as a "wonderful beginning and conclusion," chicken is typically served whole, head and feet included. For a dinner during a reunion, chicken is often braised or roasted with basic seasonings like ginger or soy. A whole chicken is traditionally presented first to one's ancestors and gods for blessings and protection. It's intriguing that the family's primary provider often eats chicken feet because they could enable them to "grab" money (the word "grab" is a homophone of the chicken's "talons").

3.    Chinese Dumplings - a symbol of wealth 

Dumplings have been eaten in China and Hong Kong for more than 1,800 years and are considered a fortunate meal for the Lunar New Year. You can make Chinese dumplings resemble Chinese silver ingots (which are not bars but boat-shaped, oval, and turned up at the two ends). According to a Chinese folktale, the more dumplings you consume when ringing in the new year, the more money you'll be able to make. Typically, dumplings are made of finely chopped veggies and minced meat that are encased in a thin, elastic dough casing. Minced pork, diced shrimp, fish, ground chicken, and veggies are common fillings.

4.    Longevity Noodles - a sign of longevity and happiness

Another essential food item for the Lunar New Year is long-life noodles. These uncut, lengthy wheat noodles are symbolic of long-life hopes. We mean it when we say something is lengthy. A noodle may grow to a maximum length of 60 cm (2 feet), and breaking one during cooking is not advised. They may be stir-fried or boiled in a broth with a soy sauce flavor. You can add as many meats and veggies as you choose..

5.    Sweet Rice Balls - a symbol of family togetherness

Tang yuan, or sweet glutinous rice balls, are symbolic of family unity. Their name sounds similar to the term for "reunion," and their circular form represents oneness. They frequently contain a sweet filling composed of peanuts, sesame, or sweet bean paste. While white is the traditional "tang yuan," pink, green, and orange variations are also produced. They can be offered either dry or with syrup.. 

6.    Nian Gao or the Chinese New Year Cake - symbolises higher income or position

"Nian Gao" or the new year cakes are a favourite for New Year's festivities because their name is close to the phrase "higher year." The phrase denotes the optimism that the upcoming year will be better than the previous one. These glutinous rice cakes are delicious, and the most basic version is just glutinous rice flour, sugar, and water steaming on a lotus leaf. Chestnuts, Chinese dates, and other fruits and nuts are potential additions. The cakes are consumed in hopes of bringing pleasure, prosperity, and good health.