Foods of Good Fortune for Chinese New Year

If you didn't have a good start to the year in January here is another chance to get off on the right foot. The Chinese Lunar New Year is the most important time of the year in China. Families come
together to celebrate and create unity, continuity and support with Feng Shui traditions. Nearly every dish in the two week period from from New Year's eve to Lantern Festival have a symbolic meaning that sounds like a Chinese character for fortune, happiness, longevity and prosperity.  Feng Shui expert Bette Steflik joined us to share some symbolic ways to celebrate good fortune. Foods that are round, like a circle, symbolize family. Fresh fruits symbolize life and new beginnings.

  1. Tangerines mean luck and oranges sound like gold. They are generally displayed in the house at the dining room table or side table. Some Asian cultures bring home a tangerine tree because the fruit looks like gold hanging from the branches.
  2. Pomelos are a member of the grapefruit family and signify abundance. The Chinese word sounds like "to have". It also means good health and family unity.
  3. The pineapple sounds like wealth and means luck and excellent fortune.
  4. Long noodles or longevity noodles are very popular and a must have dish to guarantee that everyone at the table will have a long life. Do not cut them! Or you cut your life short. 
  5. Shrimp - "xia"-- sounds like laughter and translates as merriment and well being. One of the qualities that is fostered during this time is happiness.
  6. Lettuce means "growing wealth". Food being rolled into lettuce - means having a child soon. Lettuce wraps have become a popular item on Chinese menus.  In Portland's China Town during the Lion Dance one of the local merchants will feed the Lion a head of lettuce so he will be assured good fortune for the year.
  7. Spring rolls symbolize wealth because their shape is similar to gold bars. Try stuffing them with cooked prawns and salad greens and shredded carrot with peanut sauce for dipping.
  8. The word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. A whole fish, with head and tail, is served at the end of the meal symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year. Some portion is left to ensure that the family will have an excess of good fortune throughout the year.
  9. Grapes are a refreshing fruit to have in between soup and the main course. They signify wealth, abundance and family harmony.
  10. Sugared fruits are supposed to sweeten one’s upcoming year. Sweets and fruits are served on a round tray, resembling togetherness. Trays of Togetherness are sold in Asian markets. Sweets total the number 8 because "ba" rhymes with the word "to prosper" or "to attain wealth" fa.
  11.  Nian giao, a sticky rice pudding cake, and means helping people "advance toward higher positions and prosperity step by step". Their sweetness symbolizes a rich, sweet life, while the layers symbolize rising abundance for the coming year. The round shape signifies family reunion.
  12. Dumplings, jiao zi, look like the golden ingots, yuan bao. Serving them promises wealth and prosperity. Most families eat these at midnight so they have money at the changing of the years. A coin might be hidden in one dumpling, and the person who finds it, is supposed to be showered with good fortune and wealth.

The Chinese stay up for 12:01 a.m. because the sound of "sleepiness" in Chinese is similar to Trouble. Sleepless means no trouble for the coming year. And great care is taken to serve an even number of dishes to bestow "double happiness" on the family. Red is also a very important color in Chinese Feng Shui tradition. Its means happiness, courtesy, respect, power and strength. The Chinese hand out hong bao, lucky red envelopes, during the New Year and special occasions. The custom arose that children were easily susceptible to harm and that money, would protect them from evil spirits. This lucky money also serve to bring good fortune for the coming year. The term literally means "to press down evil", because ya means to press and sui is the name of an evil spirit that comes out on New Year's Eve to harm children. During New Year, coins or notes, are placed in red envelopes, hong bao. Children and unmarried adults receive the red packets from elders or married friends. The red envelopes are a wish for good health on New Year.

For more information or to get in touch with Bette, visit her website.

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