Traditional "Good Luck" foods eaten during the Chinese New Year and why they are popular.
1. Tangerines and Oranges.
Displaying and eating these fruits is said to bring wealth and luck. The tradition stems from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck. It’s good if they have leaves,because leaves symbolize longevity. However they should not be grouped in fours as this number is associated with death.
2. Long Noodles.
If noodles are served, then serve them as long as possible, for long life.
3. Tray of Togetherness for snacks with eight compartments
Put out for visiting relatives to snack on, or given as a gift. The eight is a traditionally symbolic lucky number. Theompartments of the tray are filled with things such as preserved kumquats for prosperity, coconut for togetherness, longans to bring many sons, and red melon seeds for happiness.
4. Nian Gao
Nian gao means year cake, but gao sounds the same as the word for tall or high,. Hence the cakes symbolize achieving new heights in the coming year. The steamed sweets are made of glutinous rice flour, brown sugar, and oil. Some versions have white sesame seeds, red dates, or nuts in them (the dates are said to bring early prosperity.
This large citrus fruit is popularbecause it is thought to bring “continuous prosperity and status.” The tradition comes from the way the Cantonese phrase for pomelo sounds similar to the words for prosperity and status.
This vegetarian dish is eaten because it’s “part of the Buddhist culture to cleanse yourself with vegetables. It’s also packed with good-luck foods breaking it down by ingredient: sea moss for prosperity; lotus seeds for children/birth of sons; noodles for longevity; lily buds to “send 100 years of harmonious union”; Chinese black mushrooms to “fulfill wishes from east to west”; and more. I have a version on my site.
7. Long Leafy Greens and Long Beans.
Leafy greens, such as Chinese broccoli, are “served whole to wish a long life for parents.”
8. Whole Fish.
The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance.It’s important that the fish is served with the head and tail intact to ensure a good start and finish and to avoid bad luck throughout the year. I have a recipe on my site.
Serving desserts brings a sweet life in the new year.A favorite is the flaky cookie pockets called gok jai, filled with peanuts, coconut, and sesame. I have a recipe on my site.
10. Yuanbao (Jiaozi).
In North China, everyone eats the jiaozi dumplings. Families will make a dough and wrap it around pork and cabbage, and boil [the dumplings], then serve them with vinegar and soy sauce. You can wrap them in the shape of an old silver ingot.” During New Year celebrations jiaozi are called yuanbao, a reference to the ancient, ingot-shaped Chinese currency, and that eating them is said to bring prosperity. While making them, families sometimes tuck added good-luck foods like peanuts (to bring long life) into some of them. I have a recipe on my site.