Chinese New Year Traditions - Food, Customs and Superstitions

Chinese New Year Traditions - Food, Customs and Superstitions


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Chinese New Year celebrations were born out of fear and myth. Legend spoke of the wild beast Nian (which also is the word for “year”) that appeared at the end of each year, attacking and killing villagers. Loud noises and bright lights were used to scare the beast away, and the Chinese New Year celebrations were born. Today, the 15-day New Year festivities are celebrated with a week of vacation in metropolitan areas of China. Much like the Western New Year (January 1st), the biggest celebration is on the eve of the holiday. At the turn of the new year, firework displays are put on throughout the city.

Traditions

Aside from New Year’s Eve, there are other important days of the 15-day Chinese New Year Festival, including:

JIE CAI CENG: Welcoming the Gods of Wealth and Prosperity
On the fifth day of New Year’s, it is believed that the gods of prosperity come down from the heavens. Businesses will often participate in setting off firecrackers as they believe it will bring them prosperity and good fortune for their business.

YUAN XIAO JIE: Festival of Lanterns
The 15th day of the New Year is known as the Festival of Lanterns and marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. All types of lanterns are lit throughout the streets and often poems and riddles are often written for entertainment.

There are also paper lanterns on wheels created in the form of either a rabbit or the animal of the year (Dog for 2018). The rabbit lantern stems from a Chinese myth or fairytale about a female goddess named Chang E who jumped onto the moon.

So she wouldn’t travel alone, she brought a rabbit with her to keep her company. It is said that if your heart is pure enough, you can see the goddess Chang E and her rabbit on the moon on this day.

Symbols

Red envelopes
Called “hong bao” in Mandarin, the red envelopes filled with money are typically only given to children or unmarried adults with no job. If you’re single and working and making money, you still have to give the younger ones the hong bao money.

The color red denotes good luck/fortune and happiness/abundance in the Chinese Culture and is often worn or used for decoration in other celebrations.

Dragon
The dragon is present in many Chinese cultural celebrations as the Chinese people often think of themselves as descendants of the mythical creature. On the fifth day of the New Year when many people have to start going back to work, they will also have dancing dragons perform in the front of the office building.

On the 15th day of the New Year (Yuan Xiao Jie), they may also have a lot of dancing dragon performances. The dragon represents prosperity, good luck and good fortune.

Traditional Foods

The Chinese New Year’s Eve meal is the most important dinner of the year. Typically, families gather at a designated relative’s house for dinner, but these days, many families often celebrate New Year’s Eve dinner at a restaurant. Many restaurants require reservations months in advance.

There are also some families that hire a professional chef to come cook at their house. Chefs are often busy running from one home to another cooking dinners for different families on New Year’s Eve.

Chinese New Year is a 15-day celebration and each day, many families rotate celebrations between homes of their relatives. The festivities are day-long and sometimes, a family ends up cooking two meals for their relatives, once at lunch and once at dinner.

These dishes used to be all made from scratch, but now people can easily buy them prepackaged at the supermarkets.

  • Eight Treasures Rice, which contains rice, walnuts, different colored dry fruit, raisins, sweet red bean paste, jujube dates, and almonds
  • “Tang Yuan” – black sesame rice ball soup; or a won ton soup
  • Chicken, duck, fish and pork dishes
  • “Song Gao,” literally translates to “loose cake,” which is made of rice which has been coarsely ground and then formed into a small, sweet round cake
  • “Jiu Niang Tang” – sweet wine-rice soup which contains small rice balls

READ MORE: Chinese New Year History


Chinese New Year: celebrate the coming of spring

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year — and in China, more commonly known as the Spring Festival (Chūnjié) — has become one of the world's top five most celebrated festivals. Other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Mauritius and the Philippines celebrate with their own traditions, as well. Chinese New Year celebrations also take place in New York, London, Vancouver, Sydney and many other overseas cities. One-sixth of the world's population participates in celebrating the Lunar New Year, according to the Travel China Guide.

The Chinese New Year is the longest public holiday in China. Employees have seven to 12 days off from work, and students have one month of winter vacation.

"No matter where they live, Chinese try to return home to be with their families for Chinese New Year, just as Americans do for Christmas," said Dr. Ming Wang, an ophthalmologist and advocate for cultural diversity in Nashville, Tennessee. "This creates the world's largest annual migration, known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush."

In 2020, Lunar New Year festivities in China were partially curtailed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a paper published in The Lancet, the Chinese government enacted some protective measures to promote social distancing and prevent travel of infected people. In 2021, travel and gatherings before the holiday were once again restricted, according to the New York Times.


Chinese traditions and superstitions

The Chinese are extremely superstitious and it does not matter when or what time you were born and which direction your home faces there are certain customs and superstitions that many Chinese all over the world follow especially during the New Year and other important celebrations like weddings, birthdays and more.

Some superstitions to me seem mumbo jumbo but many others are actually more logical like letting of fireworks on New Year Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the new but more importantly scaring away evil spirits. On the minute of New Year’s Day dependant on the lunar calendar which is not the same system we use in the west, in 2013 for instance New Year’s Day year of the Snake is 10 th February at 07.20am (GMT) every door and window in the house should to be opened to allow the old year to go out and invite a good year ahead.

Many people also refrain from eating meat on the first day of Chinese New Year as it is thought that this will guarantee a long and happy life. Some may eat a whole fish, which is said to represent inseparability and abundance, or a chicken with its head and feet intact, which symbolises wealth. Any noodles in your bowl should be left uncut, as a sign of long life and the longer the noodle the longer the life. I can remember every Chinese New Year we always had noodles and I would cut at the table encouraging my two boys Sean & Daniel to keep their noodles intact, I know it would have looked strange in front of many westerners but something we have always done.

Plants and flowers also play a significant role in symbolising rebirth and new growth especially with regards to wealth and fresh flowers must always be placed on New Year’s Day. A home is thought to be lucky if a plant blooms on New Year’s Day, as this predicts the start of an affluent year and healthy year ahead.

Another Chinese superstition is that the entire house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away.

Cleaning, sweeping and dusting should not be done on New Year’s Day for fear that good luck will be swept away. After New Year’s Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the room, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day after Chinese New Year. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold of a door, you will sweep one of the family members away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door. The oven and hob are always cleaned spotlessly.

All debts must be paid by New Year’s Day. Nothing should be lent on this day either, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. To me there is nothing more satisfying watch my wife Josephine sitting at the breakfast table in our kitchen with a phone or pen in her hand pay all our debts like electricity, gas, phone and this applies to our home and business and I know this is easier said than done but even if you just some of the debt off.

Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or negative words. Negative terms and the word “four”, sounding like the word for death, are not to be spoken. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are totally forbidden. References to the past year are also avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning.

If you cry on New Year’s Day, you will cry all through the year so keep the day as joyful as possible and avoid any confrontation at all.

On New Year’s Day, you must not wash your hair because it would mean we would have washed away good luck for the New Year. Red clothing is preferred during this festive occasion. Red is considered a bright, happy colour, said to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. It is believed that appearance and attitude during New Year’s sets the tone for the rest of the year. Children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given little red envelopes with crisp notes inside, for good fortune.

The first person one meets and the first words heard are significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year. It is a lucky sign to see or hear songbirds or red coloured birds or swallows.

It is considered unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom so that is why everyone, even the sick, should get dressed and sit in the main living room.

Do not use knives or scissors on New Year’s Day as this may cut off fortune, I know you are probably saying to yourself right now how am I going to carve the turkey and boiled ham etc, it is something we have always adhered to and I think always will.

For those most Chinese superstitious, the Chinese Almanac should be consulted to find the best time to do important things. The Almanac would tell you that if the day is a good day or bad day to have a funeral, sweep the graves of ancestors, worship the dead or move an ancestor’s grave start construction, move into a new house, visit friends or even travel north get a haircut or cultivate plants and so on. You should also consult the Feng Shui flying star for the year and this year is the year of the yin water Snake with mixed predictions.

Chinese superstitions are not just kept for the New Year, there are hundreds if not thousands of them for every occasion and I have detailed some below, some I believe and follow others are just the usual superstitions that every country in the world have and you would never achieve anything in your life if you followed them all…

Why is it considered unlucky to sleep with a mirror facing the bed?

You should never place a mirror directly facing your bed – this is a Feng Shui taboo and well documented although there are explanations, and one is that it can bring a third party into the marriage of the sleeping occupants of the bed. Superstition frowns on having a mirror directly reflect the bed, but here is the reason that I most believe is that doing so causes the spirit of your sleeping soul to enter into the mirror and you may not be able to return to your body when you wake up in the morning. In other words, it could cause you to get “trapped” in the in-between world that exists between sleep and wakefulness – a frightening prospect which some say can indeed happen. Another explanation is that the mirror attracts wandering spirits who come to steal your consciousness and another is that when you sleep your soul awakes and goes wandering and when it sees itself in the mirror it gets scared and causes a frightful sleep.

When visiting a sick person

You should never offer pears when visiting sick people as this is a symbol that the patient will die. It is also bad luck to send red flowers, especially red roses, as this signifies blood. Many other Asian cultures also believe that sending red roses will cause death to occur. Best colours for hospitals are white and yellow, the colours of yang life.

Do not give presents in quantities of four. This is frowned upon because the number four sounds like “death.” The best kind of gift to send is boxes of chocolates.

Should you hang your laundry at night?

A big taboo handed down through the generations is never to leave laundry hung in the sunshine to stay there through the night-time. You must always remember to bring the washing back before dusk falls, otherwise wandering spirits will be tempted to “attach themselves” to the clothing and take over the personality of the person when she or he wears them.

There are many stories of children behaving strangely after wearing clothing that had accidentally left hanging outside absorbing in the yin energy of the night. Remind yourself of this no matter how busy you are. Clothes and especially underwear left hanging out should ideally be thrown away. I know this seems extreme but believe me it is closely adhered to.

Can your fringe cause you to have bad luck and block your wealth?

The Chinese have a great aversion to covering the forehead with hair. This is said to create a serious block on your wealth luck and is especially applicable to men (this explains why my luck is good having such a large forehead). Men’s foreheads are said to be the part of the face that attracts wisdom, success and good fortune. Covering the forehead it is said to seriously affect good fortune coming your way.

Can seeing a hearse give your career a boost?

If you see a hearse with a coffin on board as you make your way to your workplace, it is said to represents big success coming to you in your job or business, or it can mean that you will be getting a promotion. They say that the coffin will take away all your bad luck, leaving you only with your good fortune.

Shaking away your wealth

This will stick in my head for the rest of my life and especially family and friends the habit many people have of shaking their legs when they sit down. This is considered very unlucky and the amount of times Josephine has told me or the boys off if we used to shake our legs, a habit my father used to do all the time much to annoyance of all of us. On a recent trip to kuala lumpur I noticed they also have this taboo, and the phrase “goyang kaki” or shaking legs.

Shaking your legs is like kicking your wealth away and if you do this consistently, it is believed to create the cause for all your wealth to flow away from you.

Things you should not to do at night

There are many taboos associated with the nightly yin hours. This is when yin energy descends and the Chinese are especially mindful of wandering spirits who they believe they are roaming freely after the sun sets. At night they say it is dangerous to pick flowers, as strange events will follow as you will pull up evil ground spirits.

At night if you are in the garden where there are many dark bushes and tall trees, you should refrain from calling aloud the names of your loved ones or of your friends, or even your pets, as these infuse the people and animals concerned with the wish to hurt or annoy you. In the night, yin energy overcomes and on dark nights when there is no moonlight, children are strenuously advised to stay indoors as coming out into the open where they are not protected by a roof above them makes them vulnerable to spirits. The antidote to darkness is light and this is why it is always safer to keep lights turned on even in the gardens, and well into the early hours of the morning. In Feng Shui it is good to have your doorways well lit to attract good qi into your home and also the reason why your doorways should be kept spotlessly clean.

Whistling at night

You should not whistle at night. You could be taking a walk and feeling happy, and might start to unconsciously whistle a tune. According to Chinese beliefs, doing so is sure to entice the attention of wandering ghosts who will then follow you home.

Ang pow red envelopes should contain even number of notes

It is considered very unlucky to place odd numbered amounts of cash inside a red packet or ang pow red envelope. On happy occasions such as weddings and birthdays, money wrapped as gifts should have even numbers and better yet should end in the 8 digit such as 118, 188 or 168. Odd number money is said to signify death although it is considered very lucky to receive one Chinese i-ching coin in a red envelope and this something as a company we have given as a gift to all our customers since we first opened in 1999.

Protecting your money luck

If you want to make sure money does not fly out of your home or business, make certain not to sit on the counter where the cash till is placed. This is a really negative thing to do. In the same way, you should also never sit on a table that has your important documents and your safe placed inside one of the drawers. You should also never step on the threshold of any doorway into your home or business. It is said that the threshold is the pulse point of the building and stepping on it destroys its essence and its spirit and cause many problems. Some people say that the threshold is placed at the doorway to prevent wandering spirits from entering. Spirits are unable to cross the threshold. If you step on the threshold, you will be symbolically “breaking” the protection of the home.

Did you know it is considered bad luck to peek at women’s underwear

You must not peek at women’s underwear either by chance or intention. This kind of “Peeping Tom” is said to bring bad luck and it is said that your life will be one of suffering and struggle all the way if you do this (Had to laugh at this one). Men should never perform female responsibilities such as suckling the baby, sweeping the floor or washing the laundry. Doing these traditional tasks of women within the household is said to bring bad luck. Doing any of these tasks as a profession or business is however perfectly OK. This superstation was definitely invented by a man!

Men should never wash women’s as doing so can make it hard for the man to become rich. He will also become like a faithful “slave” to his wife. Men should never walk under a woman’s undergarments. So make sure you avoid going into a woman’s boudoir. These things stunts a man’s growth and brings him bad luck. These few superstations must have been invited by men and not something I could ever follow in my home!

Children superstitions

School children should avoid reading their text books whilst sitting on the toilet. This infers contempt for the God of Education who will withhold his blessings. As a result, the child will lack good academic luck and will suffer bad exam results. Allowing others to step on your text books have an even worse effect, as this creates the qi for bad luck in studies to rise.

When children eat, they should try to eat all the food given to them, as a clean plate or bowl is what will bring good exam results and a good looking spouse for later in life. Spilling rice all over the table is unthinkable, as this causes the mind to become contaminated and your mind will wander.

Be careful where you pee

The Chinese have always had this belief and always remind their children to never just pee anywhere they like. This is considered very dangerous thing to do because you could carelessly be peeing on some wandering spirit, or on an ant hill or a rabbit hole and it is said that if you do you will upset the land spirits. It is also considered very bad to pee on plants especially trees as this upsets the plant spirits and you may suffer the consequences.

Next time you desperately need an outside pee because you are traveling or on a long walk, find a spot where the land is flat and there is no danger of there being any kind of ant or mice nest, then put your palms together and humbly seek permission from the land spirit to pee. I must admit this is not something I follow (I am sure I did as a child though) and not something I do myself either but if we ever dig our land, cut trees, prune bushes, plant seeds etc I always ask permission from he and or plant spirits as I do believe they have an energy in one form or another.

Crows bring bad news

It is believed that when a pair of black crows suddenly confronts you i.e. looks directly at you from a tree or rooftop, look on it as a warning not to sign any important documents or meet with anyone important on that day. Cancel all your important appointments immediately as the crows are said to be the purveyors of bad news. Colourful birds however bring news of good things.

Seeing a rainbow

I think this applies to many parts of the world and when you see a rainbow it is said that great fortune will come to you and this is known as “catching a rainbow” so a good idea to scan the skies for rainbows, especially if the sun comes out soon after rainfall. That is when rainbows get formed. If you see a double arch, it is even more auspicious. In China stories have been told of people striking it really rich after taking a picture where they are seen to be standing at the end of a rainbow. Using the camera to create visual effects like this is as good as the real thing. However, if you do see a real live rainbow, you should never point at it with your index finger as it said to bring you bad health as you draw the energy from your body.

Stepping on poo

If you step on poo, you can expect some good luck and news to come to you. It is the same when you dream of poo. Apparently this has to do with the body getting rid of its undesirable negativities. It is also believed that when a bird poos on your head, it means you are about to come into some speculative money. As I have been writing is article I have been dog sitting my son Daniel new puppy Frankie who kindly left a deposit on the office floor and guess who stood in it? I didn’t think yippee at the time but I will wait to see f any great fortunes come my way.

The Chinese say you should not be a bridesmaid more than three times.

Doing so creates a negative effect on your own marital luck, causing you to have difficulties finding someone to settle down with. Obstacles will manifest and obstacles placed in your way with regards to relationships.

Another rule is that parents should never bring a “marital bed” into the home for the daughter until she is well and truly married. Doing so will spoil her chances of getting married at all. Those wanting to invest in an antique marriage bed should take note of this and from a Feng Shui point f view this is a big no no.

During Chinese wedding dinners

Steamed fish is usually one of the main dishes served. According to eating superstitions, one should never turn the fish over nor break the fish bones when eating fish when it is served whole. This is sure to have a negative effect on the newlyweds.

Try not to have sex on the 1st and 15th days of the Lunar Chinese Calendar. These are the days of the new moon and full moon. While these are auspicious days, they are also days for sacrifice rather than for sexual indulgence.

A good or a bad break?

The Chinese believe that the breaking of plates and other ceramics is a very bad omen and if this happens to you, you should immediately counter it by saying, “Fa Hoi Fu Gui” which means “May Prosperity Blossom”. Strange that we have so many variances on superstition as plate breaking to the Greek is very auspicious.

The kitchen can be treated like a sacred area

You should never stick chopsticks vertically straight into your rice bowl as this a sign of ancestor worship and spells yin spirit formation, bringing bad luck and you should never point the spout of a tea or coffee pot directly at the male head of household (patriarch), as this denotes him as the “enemy” of the household. It causes him to leave and even set up a second family outside the home. Pointing the pot this way is also a challenging signal towards the person the spout is pointed to. They also say it is lucky to serve tea to the patriarch in the northwest part of your home or business as this area on the lo sho is Chien Trigram which represents the eldest male

You must not hang your wok or pans upside down or reversed. This signifies there is nothing to cook and indicates a lack of wealth. So the western style of hanging their pots and pans suspended above the kitchen table is something the Chinese frown upon.

When eating, never point the knife or fork directly at someone, as this is a hostile signal and can cause the other party to have an accident.

You should also place a mirror overlooking the dining table as this is said to double the amount of food on the table and considered very lucky.

When having a baby:

  • If you’re pregnant, you should not use glue as it is said it can cause a difficult birth.
  • You should never praise a new-born baby because it will invite evil spirits and ghosts
  • If you strike an animal during pregnancy, the new-born child will look like that animal and behave like one
  • A baby boy born in a Dragon year must roll over the newlywed’s matrimonial bed to ensure good luck.
  • A baby regardless of sex with wide and thick ears will live prosperously.
  • A baby with more than one hair crown will be mischievous and disobedient.
  • A concave navel means a flourishing life.

Before you get married:

  • They say you should never marry someone who is older or younger by 3 or 6 years.
  • Wedding clothes should be red, yellow and/or white.
  • Couples with the same surname cannot marry even if they are not related, they still belong to the same ancestry.
  • Wearing black, blue or gray will bring bad luck to the marriage.

Good luck superstitions:

  • The number of steps in a staircase should be even-numbered.
  • The principal bedroom should not be situated right above the garage.
  • It is bad luck if your door or gate directly faces the end of a road (T Junction).
  • The dining area should not be under a second-floor toilet.

Lucky and unlucky numbers:

  • The luckiest number is eight because its Chinese word also means prosperity.
  • The unluckiest number is four as it sounds like the Chinese word for death.
  • Seven can also signify death.
  • The number one means loneliness.
  • The number “9” is good, because nine in Cantonese sounds like the word “sufficient”.

Lucky and unlucky colours:

  • Red is the colour of blood or life and will bring happiness, wealth, fame, and good luck.
  • Black is the colour of faeces and is associated with evil, disaster and bad fortune. White is the colour of mother’s milk. It symbolises balance, purity, honesty and life and balances red and black.

Going to funerals:

  • After leaving a wake, do not go straight home lest the ghost of the dead follows you.
  • The deceased’s children and grandchildren should not cut their hair for 49 days after the funeral.
  • Statues of deities like Buddha, Kwan Yin, Kwan Kung etc must be covered with red cloth of red paper.
  • Mirrors must be hidden a person who sees the reflection of the coffin will have a death in his/her family.
  • White cloth must be hung across the doorway of the house.

Lucky and unlucky colours:

  • Red is the colour of blood or life and will bring happiness, wealth, fame, and good luck.
  • Black is the colour of faeces and is associated with evil, disaster and bad fortune. White is the colour of mother’s milk. It symbolises balance, purity, honesty and life and balances red and black.

Lucky and unlucky numbers:

  • The luckiest number is eight because its Chinese word also means prosperity.
  • The unluckiest number is four as it sounds like the Chinese word for death.
  • Seven can also signify death.
  • The number one means loneliness.
  • The number “9” is good, because nine in Cantonese sounds like the word “sufficient”.
  • Cutting toenails or fingernails at night is bad luck the person will be visited by a ghost.
  • If a dog howls continuously at night, this means death.
  • If you hear a crow caw between 3 – 7am it means you will receive gifts hearing a crow caw between 7 – 11am means bad weather and between 11am – 1pm it means you will argue with someone.
  • If a man’s ears burn between 11pm and 1pm, there will be harmony between him and his wife if they burn between 1 and 3 in the afternoon, a guest will soon arrive.

Things you should never do:

  • Beating a person with a broom will rain bad luck upon that person for years. Generally I would avoid this whatever the reason
  • Wearing a moustache is considered bad luck although I have worn one for many years with fantastic good luck but you must keep it cleanly cut and in good shape.
  • Never point at the moon or your ears might get chopped off.
  • Don’t keep a pet turtle or it will slow down your business.

Please leave your comments below on this topic and share your superstitions wherever you are from in the world. You will also be automatically notified when someone else contributes to this page.


4. Don't wash clothes and hair.

People do not wash clothes on the first and second day, because these two days are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神, the Water God).

Hair must not be washed on the first day of the lunar year. In Chinese language, hair (发) has the same pronunciation (and indeed is the same character) as fa in facai (发财), which means 'to become wealthy’. Therefore, it is seen as not a good thing to “wash one’s fortune away” at the beginning of the New Year.


Chinese New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions

Chinese New Year this year is Feb 5th and we celebrate it until Feb 19th. In our culture we have a lot of traditions and superstitions that we believe in to prepare for the new year. Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival. This year is the year of the pig which means 2019 will be filled with family gatherings and hopes for good fortune. Famous people born in year of the pig are Henry Ford, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hilary Clinton.

One tradition that almost everyone knows is that we wear red on Chinese New Year. Wearing read symbolize’s good luck and prosperity. Gift giving is red envelopes called a Hongbao is filled with money and that is given to children and employers give red envelopes to employees. When you are giving money in a red envelope money is new bills, and never given in the denomination of four because four sounds like death so no 4, 40 or 400. Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture so that is a safe bet if you want to give money! In modern day culture they now have apps that you can send your lucky money to friends and family.

There are also lucky foods to eat during Chinese New Year. Long life noodles are a must! In Chinese history longevity was believed to be the ultimate blessing. Long life noodles are eaten because of their length and it symbolizes your life. So don’t bite them when you eat them! Long life noodles originated during the Han Dynasty.

Dumplings also called Jiaozi is another lucky food to eat durning Chinese New Years because it represents wealth. Fish is another traditional dish for during Chinese New Year Dinner because it will help increase prosperity and usually fish is served last because it will help bring luck year after year. Spring Rolls symbolize wealth so when they are golden they are meant to represent gold bars and when eaten it will bring wealth for years to come. Glutinous Rice Cake , Niangao is eaten if you want a raise or to be promoted in your job. Eight Treasure Rice if you eat it you will ensure sweetness throughout the year. Prosperity Cakes called Fa Gao will bring luck for the year. Sweet Rice Balls which is called Tangyuan represents family togetherness which is eaten during lantern festival which is the last day of Chinese New Years. There are also fruits that represent success and wealth and those are oranges, tangerines and pomeloes. There are more foods that are good luck but those are the main ones that you should eat.

There are also things to do to prepare for Chinese New Year. One is wearing new clothes and make sure they are red to ensure good luck for the year. Do not wash your hair on Chinese New Year because you will wash away your fortune. The same goes for doing laundry try not to do laundry during the first two days of Chinese New Years. Using scissors is a no no too. That is cutting away your luck so try avoiding that. You’ll want to clean your house before the new year because sweeping is a no on Chinese New Year because that is sweeping your wealth away.

With that being said, I hope that everyone has a Happy New Year and that your year is filled with good health, good luck, good fortune, success, money and happiness.


Lights and Lanterns

As the name of the festival suggests, lanterns are the highlights of the occasion. It was also formerly called Shang Yuan (上元) and was dedicated to the heavenly palace (天宫).

People would get together in a yard and gather offerings for the gods. They would set aside a lit lantern to represent a god’s seat. You can also check out our article on classic Chinese New Year superstitions.

The lanterns themselves have numerous variations. They can come in the form of a globe that could fit in the palm of your hand to something as large as a parade float. People also make lanterns in the shape of auspicious symbols and characters.

Lanterns of different styles and colors can be seen during the occasion.

One of the more basic and popular designs is the Kongming lantern (孔明灯), also known as the sky lantern (天灯). In the past, they were used to signify that people were safe after an attack. Nowadays, they are used to express wishes.

The sky lantern is used to express personal wishes.

The Chinese term for “sky lantern” (天灯—tiān dēng) also sounds similar to the term for “adding children” 添丁 (tiān ding). For this reason, they were often given to newlyweds or couples who have yet to bear children. Pregnant women are sometimes given a pair of small lanterns as wishes for health and safety for both the mother and the unborn child.


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10 Chinese New Year Food Superstitions

As the second new moon after the winter solstice approaches, between late January to mid-February, millions of people of Asian heritage around the world prepare for a long holiday celebration to ring in the holiday known as Lunar New Year, Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.

Similar to how the world celebrates New Year's Eve, fireworks will erupt in the night sky and friends and families will gather together. But unlike traditions of December 31, the Chinese start the celebration with dragons dancing throughout the streets, money exchanged in red envelopes, called a "hongbao," and, oh yes, food!

While Western folks often welcome the New Year's holiday with tequila shots and finger foods, people of Asian heritage celebrate with large dinners at home or at a restaurant. The Lunar New Year is filled with symbols, traditions and superstitions designed to influence the future, and the foods associated with the festival are no different.

Here are 10 Chinese New Year foods that will be on everyone's table during the holiday celebration. Because, is it really a celebration if there's no food involved?

10: Oranges and Tangerines

Two of the most common food symbols of the Chinese New Year are tangerines and oranges. Whereas tangerines represent wealth, oranges are a popular symbol of good luck. The associations come from a similarity between the Chinese words for tangerine and gold, as well as a resemblance between the words orange and good luck. It isn't uncommon in Chinese culture for similar sounding or spelled words with very different meanings (homonyms) to become suggestive of one another over time. Oranges and tangerines are also a bright, vibrant orange, a happy color that's associated with good fortune. Thus, it's a tradition to place oranges along with a red envelope next to a child's pillow.

During Chinese New Year, tangerines and oranges are displayed as decorations and are also exchanged among friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, small trees are kept for this purpose. When giving these fruits as gifts, offer them with both hands. It's polite for the recipient to refuse at first, so keep trying.

Fruit is almost always a good Chinese New Year's gift. Oranges and tangerines are a traditional favorite, though, and can also represent happiness and abundance, as in an abundant harvest. If there are still leaves and a stem attached to the fruit, it also means fertility.

Noodles are an ancient food, although there's some debate about where they were first created. There's no doubt that noodles are an important addition to many traditional Chinese dishes like lo mein and chow mein. Noodles are a staple of the Chinese diet and can be made from a number of ingredients, like rice flour, wheat flour or mung bean starch.

When served during Chinese New Year, noodles shouldn't be cut or broken into pieces. Long noodles represent a nice long life, although eating them could get a little messy. Just to be on the safe side, you might want to consider having a couple of sturdy napkins on hand.

Whole chicken is a popular dish during Chinese New Year because it represents togetherness and rebirth. It's symbolic of the family and can also signify unity and prosperity as a group. After all, chicken is a good source of protein and can feed even a large family when prepared carefully. To make sure that the symbolism is complete, it's a good idea to boil or steam the chicken with the head and feet still on to represent unity. Go the extra step and make a symbolic offering of chicken to your ancestors, too. You may not get any takers, but showing respect for the past and enthusiasm for the future is a big part of the holiday.

In Chinese tradition, melons and pomelos are also symbolic of family and are the embodiment of the hope that the family will remain large and whole. The pomelo, a citrus fruit that looks like a big pear and tastes a little like a sweet grapefruit, is also a symbol of abundance.

A popular family New Year's Eve tradition is to get together and make boiled dumplings(jiaozi). Boiled Chinese dumplings are fun and relatively easy to make, and their fried counterparts, pot stickers, are also a Western favorite. Filled with vegetables like cabbage and spring onion, and flavored with pork or shrimp, Chinese dumplings make a filling appetizer or side dish any time of year.

If you plan on following this Chinese New Year tradition, encourage everyone in the family to participate in the preparation and conceal a coin in one of the dumplings in the batch. If the person who finds it doesn't chip a tooth, he's destined to have a very, very lucky year.

Pomegranates are a natural for Chinese New Year. They're filled with colorful seeds for fertility and are a bright vibrant red, which represents a large family. They're also good for you, with an abundance of antioxidants and vitamin C to help you recuperate after the celebrations are over.

You probably already know that pomegranate juice is a great pick-me-up and base for a number of alcoholic beverages (it's often made into a sugar syrup called grenadine), but pomegranate seeds are also refreshing in salads and perk up the color and sweetness of meats when added to marinades. They make an eye-popping garnish too, especially when paired with slivered carrots, purple cabbage or orange segments.

If you want to experiment, peel a fresh pomegranate and sample the seeds. They have a predominantly sweet flavor with just a slight sour aftertaste. They're wonderful as a fresh, cold dessert all by themselves.

Seeds are important in Chinese New Year celebrations because they're symbolic of the harvest, abundance and fertility. Sunflower seeds symbolize having many offspring, especially sons and grandsons, which is important in traditional Chinese culture.

Many seed-rich fruits are either used as ingredients in classic dishes or for decoration. Besides the symbolic significance of the seeds in fruits like oranges, tangerines, melons, pomegranates and pomelos, seeds are also used by themselves or as major ingredients. Red-dyed melon seeds are added to candies and offered to guests or children, and the sweet seeds of the lotus are candied, too. While lotus seeds symbolize a healthy family, red melon seeds have multiple meanings because they incorporate the significance of red for joy with happiness and truth represented by the seeds themselves.

A large all vegetable medley is a favorite New Year's Day dish. This classic is sometimes called Vegetarian's Delight, Jai or Buddha's Delight. Make sure to use plenty of root vegetables. Chinese New Year is the beginning of the spring planting season, so it's a great time to use up those stored winter veggies and clear the shelves for spring greens.

To add a little extra good fortune, be sure to include black moss to attract wealth, lotus seeds for fertility, and bamboo shoots for strength and longevity. Some other common ingredients are tiger lily buds, red dates (jujubes), Chinese cabbage, cloud ears and water chestnuts.

Although you'll see tofu (fresh bean curd) in some Chinese New Year recipes, serving white ingredients is usually considered bad luck during the 15-day celebration. White represents bad fortune and even death, although in other areas of Chinese life it can mean purity, too.

Color is often symbolic during this time, and foods that are red, orange, green or gold are considered particularly auspicious. This is one of the reasons tangerines, oranges, red melon seeds and pomegranates are popular food gifts. Their colors are believed to represent the following:

  • White - bad luck, death, loss, mourning
  • Red - happiness, beauty, vitality, good luck, success, good fortune
  • Blue - healing, trust, long life
  • Gold or yellow - richness, nobility, royalty, freedom
  • Green - wealth, fertility, regeneration, hope, harmony, growth

The Chinese New Year prosperity tray, also known as the Tray of Togetherness, is usually a hexagonal or round dish that contains eight traditional candy varieties. The number eight represents prosperity, and each candy has symbolic significance.

The tray is made from traditional ingredients, like red melon seeds, peanuts or candied melons. Not only are these treats offered to children and guests, the eight compartments are reserved for receiving eight red envelopes in traditional Chinese culture.

  • Candied melon - good health, longevity
  • Coconut - togetherness
  • Kumquat - prosperity
  • Candied water chestnuts - family unity, togetherness
  • Longan - fertility (for bearing sons)
  • Lotus seeds - a large family
  • Peanuts - long life
  • Red melon seeds - joy, fertility

It's traditional to serve a whole fish on New Year's Eve and save half for the next day. The Chinese word for fish is similar to the word for surplus, and saving part of the fish for later consumption insures symbolic abundance for the future. In true Chinese fashion, buy the freshest fish you can. When exploring the options, insist on a fish with clear eyes and a clean, not fishy smell.

As with chickens served during this time, it's important to keep the fish whole, with the tail and head intact. And how you position the fish on the dinner table matters. It's a sign of respect to position the head of the fish towards guests or elders, and it's considered good luck if the two people who face the head and tail drink together. Last, not only should you not move the fish, but the feast doesn't start until the one who faces the fish's head eats first!


21 Asian Food Superstitions Everyone Should Know

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Food is an important part of many Asian cultures around the world. Many customs and superstitions are often characterized by consumption of beloved foods and are rooted in a rich history of traditions, carried on from one generation to the next.

Whether you believe that blowing out birthday candles in one breath is essential for your wishes to come true or that spilled salt will bring bad luck, here are 21 more superstitions to keep in mind.

Japan

– If you’re a green tea aficionado, this one’s definitely for you: finding a tea stalk floating upright in your cup may be a sign of good luck. Just one of the many benefits of enjoying a cup of green tea on a cold winter’s day.

– Similar to the Chinese, the Japanese also have rules regarding chopstick etiquette. Refrain from sticking your chopsticks upright in a rice bowl. While convenient, it is not good form. When placed in this manner, they resemble incense used to mourn dead family members. Instead, lay them across your rice bowl.

– Forgo that post-Thanksgiving, tryptophan-induced slumber. Contrary to the idea that “sleep makes you skinny,” it is said that if you lay down just after eating a meal you will turn into a cow.

Thailand

– Make sure your kitchen is always stocked with eggs and oranges. Besides being delicious and full of nutrients necessary to fuel our bodies, these two superfoods will bring you happiness into your life.

– If you hit another’s hand as you both reach for food, a visitor may be making an appearance. Expect a guest soon!

– The person who finishes the last piece of food is said to be lucky, so look out for that last piece of pizza. You just might have a handsome significant other coming your way. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Korea

– Ever have a dream about flying pigs? Well, you’re in luck. Dreaming about pigs (not confined strictly to flying pigs) is considered to be a sign of good fortune. That means dreaming about these five ways to eat bacon will actually bring you luck.

– If you’re married, don’t feed your husband chicken wings – he might just take flight. How about preparing Korean Bibimbap instead?

– If you’re trying to ace that Biochem midterm, definitely don’t eat slippery foods. It is believed that slippery foods will make all that information you just tried to cram into your brain slip right out. Instead, try these alternatives to fuel your brain.

Philippines

– Eat 12 round fruits on New Year’s Day. This is meant to bring about prosperity and is representative of nature’s abundance and fertility. Eating 12 is thought to guarantee prosperity all year round. Here are some other healthy habits to adopt in the New Year for good measure.

– Dropping an eating utensil on the ground signifies that a visitor is on its way. Whether the visitor is male or female depends on the utensil: a fork signifies a male visitor will be in your presence while a spoon means female.

– Finding and breaking open an egg with two yolks is a sign that wealth is coming your way (in addition to an awesome breakfast).

Vietnam

– If you’re cooking fish, definitely handle that bottle of fish sauce with care. It is believed that breaking a bottle of fish sauce will bring you bad luck.

– It is important to serve at least two bowls of rice (not just one) at the table. One bowl is meant for the dead.

– To reverse bad luck, you need to eat the fetus from a duck egg.

China

– Long noodles are a symbol of long life it is important that you abstain from cutting noodles because it symbolizes cutting your life short. Instead, slurp those noodles up (a practice my family definitely employs). Not only will you ensure a long life, but slurping is considered to be respectful etiquette.

– During Chinese New Year, a whole chicken is a popular dish as it represents togetherness and is representative of the family. Normally a whole chicken is boiled in order to represent unity.

– Similarly, in my family (as with most other Chinese families) it is customary to serve a fish whole (yes, that means with the eye intact). The word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for abundance. Eating fish in this way is thought to help your wishes come true. Check out some more lucky Chinese New Year foods.

Indonesia

– If you’re dying to study abroad in South America or backpack across Europe, eat chicken wings. It is believed that children who wish to visit overseas should eat chicken wings in order to successfully make the trip abroad.

– Avoid eating rice from a small plate: it will cause the people closest to you to reject you.

– Eating at the door could result in having difficulty in finding a spouse. Don’t rush and scarf down that sandwich as you’re leaving for class. Instead, take some time for yourself and enjoy your meal. While you’re at it, try to avoid some of these other diet habits.


Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year, annual 15-day festival in China and Chinese communities around the world that begins with the new moon that occurs sometime between January 21 and February 20 according to Western calendars. Festivities last until the following full moon.

The holiday is sometimes called the Lunar New Year because the dates of celebration follow the phases of the moon. Since the mid-1990s people in China have been given seven consecutive days off work during the Chinese New Year. This week of relaxation has been designated Spring Festival, a term that is sometimes used to refer to the Chinese New Year in general.

The origins of the Chinese New Year are steeped in legend. One legend is that thousands of years ago a monster named Nian (“Year”) would attack villagers at the beginning of each new year. The monster was afraid of loud noises, bright lights, and the colour red, so those things were used to chase the beast away. Celebrations to usher out the old year and bring forth the luck and prosperity of the new one, therefore, often include firecrackers, fireworks, and red clothes and decorations. Young people are given money in colourful red envelopes. In addition, Chinese New Year is a time to feast and to visit family members. Many traditions of the season honour relatives who have died.

Among other Chinese New Year traditions is the thorough cleaning of one’s home to rid the resident of any lingering bad luck. Some people prepare and enjoy special foods on certain days during the celebrations. The last event held during the Chinese New Year is called the Lantern Festival, during which people hang glowing lanterns in temples or carry them during a nighttime parade. Since the dragon is a Chinese symbol of good fortune, a dragon dance highlights festival celebrations in many areas. This procession involves a long, colourful dragon being carried through the streets by numerous dancers.


Sweet Year

If you have a sweet tooth, then prepare yourself for all of the traditional treats that pop up throughout the New Year celebrations. Eating sweets during Chinese New Year isn't just about overindulging, but also to make your upcoming year even sweeter than the last. Glutinous rice balls are one of the most popular snacks and are filled with peanut, sesame, or red bean paste. Candy boxes are often given as gifts, especially to children, and contain candied fruits, deep-fried sesame balls, and chocolates.