January 31st marks the start of Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations around the world. The holiday is the culture’s most significant cultural and economic celebration, and is a time for families to gather to honor heavenly deities, ancestors, and of course enjoy a family feast of traditional Chinese fare said to bring good luck, health, and prosperity in the coming zodiac year of the horse.
Ring in the New Year with a feast of your own featuring some of the lucky foods below, and if you’re looking for a quick way to bring luck and prosperity, be sure to leave a piece of fish on your plate this evening–it’s said to be symbolic of a rich year of surplus and savings.
Dumplings: Traditionally prepared as a family and eaten at midnight on Lunar New Year’s Eve, dumplings are filled with meat or vegetables and shaped to mimic the form of a Chinese Yuanbao, or ingot–a type of currency used in China until the 20th century–to symbolize wealth. It is believed that as the dumplings cook, they recover family wishes of generations past.
Recipe to try: Ming Tsai’s Pork Pot Stickers
Tangerines and Oranges: Displayed as decorations and given as gifts, the tangerine is said to represent wealth and the orange brings good luck. While their bright vibrant colors lend themselves to the spirit of the day, their associations with wealth and luck originate in how similar the Cantonese word for tangerine is to wealth, and the Cantonese word for orange is to luck.
Long Noodles: Also enjoyed on New Year’s Day in Western culture, a dish of unbroken noodles is said to represent longevity. Those looking to live long, healthy lives should aim to eat at least one noodle whole – don’t break it!
Recipe to try: Sesame Noodles with Scallions & Radishes
Niangao: A gelatinous, glutinous rice cake is served to help garner wealth or a higher salary in the coming year. “Niangao” in Mandarin literally means “sticky cake” but is identical to the Mandarin pronunciation for the words “year high” or “year tall.”
Recipe to try: Chinese Stir Fried Sticky Rice Cakes (via SteamyKitchen.com)
Whole Fish: Pronounced “yu” in Mandarin, the word for fish is similar to that of abundance. The fish should be served whole, to represent a complete, healthy year.
Recipe to try: Grilled Whole Fish with Chili Soy Dipping Sauce (via SteamyKitchen.com)
Pomelos: The giant Chinese grapefruit is symbolic of prosperity as it’s Cantonese pronunciation can also mean “to have”.
Recipe to try: Thai Pomelo Salad (via RasaMalaysia.com)
Pomegranates: Filled with bright red jewels, this vibrant fruit is a symbol of happiness, fertility, and is said to ward off evil spirits. It’s healthy for you, too!
Recipe to try: Pomegranate and Grilled Chicken Salad
What foods do you eat for good luck in the New Year? Share your traditions with us in the comments below!