When ringing in the new year in traditional Chinese fashion, you have to consider the importance of Chinese New Year food as well. Food plays a huge part in such celebrations. The Chinese New Year is a particularly special one. It is one of the most important Chinese holidays.
Sometimes called the Spring Festival, sometimes called the Lunar New Year, it takes place on the first day of the first lunar month, as denoted by the Chinese calendar. It ends on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.
Now, back to the subject of food – it is indeed hugely important during this celebration. Foods which are considered lucky and fortuitous are served throughout the entire fifteen days. The qualifications for lucky or symbolic foods vary.
In some cases, foods are considered precursors of good fortune because of how they appear. A whole chicken, for instance, is a symbol of family togetherness. Thus, offering a whole chicken during the Chinese New Year festivities promises that the family will remain together throughout the coming year.
Noodles are another food traditionally found during Chinese New Year’s celebrations. In fact, they are practically required. In the Chinese culture, noodles symbolize a long, long life. For that reason, certain superstitions say they should not be cut. To do so would bring bad luck or worse. The inclusion of clams and Spring rolls are used to bring luck in matters of wealth. Clams are said to look a lot like bouillon. Spring rolls represent wealth because they look a bit like bars of gold.
Other foods are significant during the New Year because of the way they sound. Literally, they are used because of the Chinese pronunciation of the word. Lettuce is a good example of this. In Cantonese, the word for it sounds fortuitous. Likewise, certain citrus fruits are served because the words for them sound like forebears of good fortune, such as “luck” and “wealth.”
Fish is symbolic in several ways, and thus is frequently served. One reason is because the word for it is “yu.” This word resembles the terms for “wish” and “abundance.” Both of those are good things to have on your side in the new year. Symbolically, serving the fish whole is good luck as well. When the head and tail are still attached, then the fish is a symbol for a good beginning and a good ending in the year ahead.