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Health, Wealth, and Prosperity: 8 Chinese New Year Foods

Feb 8 2016 - 8:40am

Lunar New Year celebrations have already begun to ring in the Year of the Monkey 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.

Jin Ju

During Lunar New Year, tangerines are handed out like candy on Halloween [1]. 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

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.

Fat Choy

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.

Whole Chicken

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.

Whole Fish

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

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.

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