You are what you eat—perhaps especially during the Lunar New Year. While the Western New Year has passed, the lunar one (celebrated in many Asian cultures, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai) has yet to come. Beginning this year on Jan. 22, the festivities last a whopping 15 days, beginning with Lunar New Year day and ending with the Lantern Festival. It’s an action-packed holiday that anyone can celebrate, especially kids, as the main objectives are to spend time with loved ones and stockpile as much good fortune as possible. A fun way you can do both is to eat these lucky foods.
8 Lunar New Year food that will bring good luck
Who doesn’t love dumplings? Chock full of meat and vegetables, dumplings are considered lucky because of their resemblance to an ancient Chinese currency, the ingot. For extra luck, you might throw a date (a symbol of success) into the dumpling mix. Whomever receives the date-laden dumpling is said to have even more prosperity for the year.
2. Whole fish or chicken
A fish or chicken intact with head and tail symbolizes prosperity and wholeness as well as a good beginning and end to the upcoming year. In addition, the Chinese word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for “abundance.” While kids may balk at seeing a fish or chicken head, this is what food is! And I guarantee that after a year or two, they’ll be fighting for who gets the fish cheeks.
It’s no joke: the Cantonese word for shrimp sounds like laughter. That’s why it’s often included in Lunar New Year meals, embodying happiness and liveliness for the new year.
4. Long noodles
Be sure to eat long noodles for a long life. There’s even a special type for Lunar New Year called longevity noodles. They’re longer than normal noodles and uncut. But if you can’t get your hands on them, just make sure your noodles are as long as possible.
5. Spring rolls
A healthier version of its decadent cousin, the egg roll, spring rolls, which symbolize wealth, might have gotten their name because they’re served during the Spring Festival. When fried to a golden brown, they resemble gold bars. Our three generations of family members love to sit around a table together during the new year and make, and then eat, a huge batch of spring rolls.
6. Lucky fruit
Oranges and tangerines are said to bring luck and prosperity for the New Year since their names in Chinese sound like “luck” and “wealth,” respectively. The presence of leaves is even better since the greenery represents longevity. Another fortunate Lunar New Year fruit is the pomelo (which in Chinese sounds like “to have again.”) To double your luck, have a tangelo, a cross between a tangerine and pomelo. Mounds of citrus on a beautiful dish alongside fresh flowers always decorate our home for the new year.
7. Tray of Togetherness
A round tray often with eight compartments (“eight” in Chinese sounds like “wealth”), each filled with candy, dried fruit, nuts, and other sweet tidbits to bring guests sweetness for the year. Typical Tray of Togetherness goodies include watermelon seeds, symbolizing fertility; candied coconut for family togetherness and unity; and candied ginger, for good health and longevity. Make sure you have a nibble of all eight to cross those lucky foods off your list!
8. Sticky rice cake
A glutinous rice cake made of sugar, water, and rice flour, nian gao, which translates as “year cake,” is a pun on “year high,” meaning rise to greater heights year after year. Nian, by the way, also sounds like the Chinese word for sticky. Nian gao is especially delicious when dipped in egg batter and fried–the outside is savory and crisp while the inside is warm, sweet and sticky. Delicious!
Whatever you choose to eat, gather with loved ones when you feast! And together you’ll start the new year with a full belly and lots of luck.
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