Whether one is of any race, religion, or ethnic belief, we are bound to be surrounded by superstitious beliefs. When it comes to food, we as the new generation, can only wonder why must life be made so deliciously complicated.
For the Chinese, we have a pretty amazing long list that our parents can never impart upon us in one lifetime. As we approach our favourite festival of the year, why not look at some of these food that we might have taken for granted as mere staple for Chinese New Year? Like us, you would probably be flabbergasted by the thoughts our ancestors put into these goodies.
For our non-chinese speaking friends, the pronunciation of the food name either
- possesses its own symbolic meaning, or
- sounds similar to well wishes used by the Chinese as gestures of goodwill during Chinese New Year.
Below extracted from article: Food Symbolism during Chinese New Year Celebrations
Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruits:
Apricot, dried (杏脯; xìngfǔ) – blessed happiness
Cashew nut (腰果, yāoguǒ)- gold, money (the nut’s shape symbolises the gold bar of ancient times)
Kumquat (金橘; jīn jú) – gold, hence fortune, wealth
Seeds – lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds etc. – having a large number of children 籽 [zǐ]
Walnut (核桃仁; hétàorén) – happiness of the entire family
Jujube (also known as red date, red colour; 枣; zǎo, candied jujube: 蜜枣; mìzǎo) – wealth, prosperity, fertility
Lotus seeds/ -nuts/ -beans (蓮子; lián zĭ) – a full wallet, many (male) offspring
Peanuts (花生; huāshēng) – health, long life, birth of prosperity, continuous growth, multiplication in wealth and good fortune, stability
Abalone (鳆; fù or 鲍鱼 baoyu) – definite good fortune or “Sure win”
Oyster (牡蠣; mǔlì) – receptivity to good fortune, good business
Oyster, dried (ho xi) – all good things, good luck
Shrimp (小虾; xiǎoxiā) – happiness and good fortune
Sea Cucumber (海参 haisheng) – to give birth to many offsprings
Other Dried Food:
Arrowroot (bot.: Maranta arundinacea; 竹芋) – good life
Bamboo fungus (stinkhorn fungus; bot.: Phallus indusiatus; 竹笙, zhúshēng), also called bamboo pith (竹荪; zhúsūn) – meaning: long life
Bamboo shoots (竹笋尖; zhú sǔn jiān) – wealth (term sounds like “wishing that everything would be well” – xǔyuànchí), new start
Bean curd, dried/ tofu, dried (豆腐, dòu fǔ)- fulfillment of wealth and happiness (note: dried tofu is not of white colour)
Bean curd sticks (腐竹; fǔ zhú) – blessing the house
Black moss (hair moss, hair weed), fat choy (髮菜; fàcài; a black hair-like cyanobacteria) – wealth
Chinese garlic chives (韭菜, jiǔcài) – everlasting, eternity, long life
Daylily buds, golden lily buds (金针; jīnzhēn; also called “golden needles”) – wealth
Golden lilly buds, Daylily (bot.: Hemerocallis; 金针; jīnzhēn) – wealth
Gingko nuts ( 銀杏; yín xìng; or 白果, bái guǒ)- hope for silver, wealth (the nut’s shape represents a silver yuanbao/ ingot)
Glass noodles, Chinese vermicelli, cellophane noodle, noodle threads (粉絲; fěn sī; also called “bean threads “, mung bean thread) – silver chain
Muer mushroom, Black fungus, Three ear fungus, Wood ear (木耳; mù ěr) – longevity
Onion (洋葱; yángcōng) – cleverness
Seaweed, especially black moss, Fat Choy, (in Chinese: 髮菜; pinyin: fàcài; literal meaning: hair vegetable). The two syllables of Fat Choy in Cantonese sound the same as a Cantonese Chinese New Year greeting “Gung1 hei2 faat3 choi4” (恭喜发财) meaning “congratulations and be prosperous”; additional meanings: – good luck, exceeding wealth.
Shitake, Black mushroom (冬菇; dōnggū) -longevity, sizing opportunities
Mixed vegetable (什锦蔬菜; shíjǐn shūcài) – family harmony
Spring roll (春卷; chūnjuǎn) – wealth (the shape represents a gold bar)
Sweets, (糖食; tángshí, 糖果;tángguǒ) rice cake (年糕; nián’gāo) – safety, good fortune and ‘sweeten’ the new year
Sugared fruits are supposed to sweeten one’s upcoming year.
Sweets and fruits are served on a round tray, the form resembling togetherness, hence the tray is called the ‘Tray of Togetherness’. Sweets offered on the tray add up to the number 8, because eight is a lucky number and symbolises fortune.
See anything we might have missed? Comment below to share your thoughts!