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Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Posted on 6th January 2010 in Events, Insight
Written by: Jen Dugdale

A very “Happy New Year” to all, but the celebrations aren’t over yet. It’s now time to focus on the forthcoming Chinese New Year and being half Chinese, I am looking foreward to a delightful feast cooked up by my Mum!

The Chinese certainly get it right. Food in their culture is of great importance so no surprise that it plays a major role in Chinese New Year celebrations. “Lucky” foods are served through the two week Chinese New Year celebration. Two weeks! And boy, do they know how to party…

So, what gives a certain food symbolic significance? Sometimes it is its appearance. For example, serving a whole chicken during the Chinese New Year season symbolises family togetherness, noodles represent a long life (in fact it is bad luck to cut them, according to an ancient tradition) and both clams and spring rolls symbolise wealth.

On the other hand, a food may have special significance during Chinese New Year because of the way the Chinese word for it sounds. For example, the Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like ‘rising fortune’ which is why it is very common to serve a lettuce leaf wrap filled with other lucky food. Tangerines and oranges are passed out freely during Chinese New Year as the words for tangerine and orange sound like ‘luck’ and ‘wealth’, respectively.

Fish also plays a large role in the festival celebrations. The word for fish “Yu”, sounds like the words for both ‘wish’ and ‘abundance’. As a result, on New Year’s Eve it is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolising a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, for a good beginning and ending for the coming year.

So if you missed the fireworks and celebrations on New Year’s Eve, don’t worry – you have another chance to celebrate. Chinese New Year falls on February 14th this year (yes, Valentine’s Day) and it is the year of the Tiger.