article celebrating chinese new year

Celebrating Chinese New Year

by: Kitchen Warehouse | January 6, 2023
print-icon
Print recipe
2023023-Chinese-new-year 920x672

Each year, millions of people all over the world celebrate Chinese New Year, which is also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. Chinese New Year officially begins the day after the first new moon appears, between 21 January and 20 February each year. This year it will fall on Sunday 22 January.

Chinese New Year is a time to come together with family to celebrate the coming new year and to officially usher out and close the door on the past year. It is seen as a chance to wipe the slate clean and start afresh, and preparations often involve cleaning the house on New Year’s Eve, to sweep away bad luck and evil spirits, and decorating homes with red papercuts and lanterns. Other traditions include the giving of monetary gifts which are given in red envelopes to ward off evil spirits and promote good health.

Perhaps the most important and most loved part of Spring Festival celebrations is the ‘reunion dinner’ which takes place on the eve of Chinese New Year. Of all the dates in the calendar, this is the one that most people will return home for, with families sitting down to prepare and share foods that are considered lucky and prosperous, including spring rolls, dumplings, longevity noodles, steamed fish and sweet rice balls.

Traditional Chinese New Year foods

The reunion dinner, and the Spring Festival in general, is largely focussed on sharing traditional foods which symbolise luck and prosperity. How a food is prepared, what it looks like and how it sounds when you say it out loud, all contribute to its meaning and importance.

It’s also worth noting that Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in China, but in other countries such as Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong. Different regions of China also place importance on different traditions and customs. Every reunion dinner and celebration is therefore unique, but there are several common dishes which you will find on the tables of most celebrating families.

Read on for more information on popular new year dishes commonly shared during this special celebration.

Dumplings are said to represent wealth due to their golden appearance resembling gold ingots. While the most common dumpling fillings include pork, cabbage and spring onion, dumplings are enjoyed with a variety of different ingredients. Families spend time making and wrapping their own dumplings and sometimes coins are hidden within the dumpling. Whoever receives the coin is said to be extra lucky that year!

Try this easy recipe for Pork Dumplings with a homemade dipping sauce.

Longevity noodles

Representing happiness and longevity, longevity noodles were traditionally served as one long noodle, with the idea being that the noodle should never be broken, in order to promote a long and happy life.

Spring rolls

Spring rolls are said to symbolise wealth and were originally a literal way of combining fresh spring vegetables into one dish to celebrate the new spring season, traditionally considered a time of rebirth and regeneration. Resembling gold bars, spring rolls are believed to attract good fortune for the coming year. These days people are inclined to fill them with not only spring vegetables, but pork, prawns and anything else they prefer.

Try this recipe for Spring Rolls from Nagi Maehashi from RecipeTin Eats

Whole fish

In Mandarin, fish is pronounced 'yú' which means surplus or leftover, which is symbolic because each year people strive for a surplus or abundance of food or wealth. The entire fish, including the head, eyes and tail is cooked and eaten, and the head of the fish is always positioned to face the elders seated at the table. The fish should be the last dish consumed with some left for the next day, representing the surplus flowing into the future.

Whole chicken

Like the whole fish, chicken is served during Chinese New Year in its entirety with the neck, head and feet included. Some families save the chicken’s feet for the primary breadwinner to enable them to ‘grasp onto wealth’. Serving the entire chicken is considered a symbol of family unity and the reunion of the family. Usually the chicken is marinated in soy sauce, cooking wine, ginger and green onions before it is steamed.

Sweet rice balls

Filled with anything sweet from red beans to peanuts to taro, sweet rice balls are made from glutinous rice flour which is kneaded by hand into perfectly round spheres, then filled with ingredients. Known as ‘tangyuan’ which sounds like ‘reunion’ or ‘togetherness’, the round circle shapes represent unity and oneness.

Fruit

As with sweet rice balls, the sphere shape of fruits such as tangerines, oranges and pomelones are consumed during Chinese New Year as they symbolise family unity, and their golden colour represents fullness, wealth and success. The Chinese word for orange sounds the same as ‘success’ and one way of writing the word tangerine contains the Chinese character for luck. Pomelones are said to bring continuous prosperity and the more you eat, the more prosperity you will experience.