Lunar New Year celebrations have already begun to ring in the year of the Wooden Horse and, with them, a buffet of culinary delights. If you've been lucky enough to partake in a traditional Chinese New Year feast, then you also may have learned the significance behind each dish. Otherwise, here's a look at common Chinese foods eaten during the New Year and what they represent.
During Lunar New Year, tangerines are handed out like candy on Halloween . The word for tangerine (jin ju) sounds like the word for luck.
You might know them from takeout menus as dumplings or pot stickers, but jiaozi are a staple of Lunar New Year meals. These little meat purses resemble Ming Dynasty-era coins, so they have come to represent money and prosperity.
Tea eggs are simmered in a savory soy sauce broth and cracked halfway through cooking so that the liquid can infuse the egg. They symbolize fertility, so couples hoping for children will often incorporate them into a symbolic New Year's feast.
Down a plate of Buddha's Delight, and you'll cash in on more than just a belly full of stir-fried vegetables. The Cantonese word for the dish's thin black mushrooms (fat choy) also sounds like the word for prosperity.
A whole chicken represents good things in the coming year, including family unity.
Tradition states that you should never cut a noodle because the strands symbolize long life. Twirl and slurp them up with chopsticks to prevent breakage.
A celebratory meal would not be complete without a whole fish. Keeping the head and tail intact provides a beneficial beginning and end to the New Year, especially because the word for fish (yu) also sounds like the word for abundance.
Nian gao are sweet sticky-rice cakes whose name also sounds like "getting higher year by year." By noshing on nian gao, people hope to increase their prosperity.