Eat or Not Eat? Chinese New Year Food-Related Tradition and Myth You Should Know!

Chinese New Year is just around the corner! It’s a big deal, a perfect opportunity to gather with relatives and friends and enjoy traditional food! Yummmm! However, food in Chinese culture not only a kind of sustenance but also has heavily symbolic. Certain dishes are eaten and prepared for bringing in good fortune while some are not. If you are wondering what should eat and what should avoid during the Chinese New Year, just read on:

Taboo: Don’t eat porridge on New Year’s Day

Porridge has long been a common food for clean eating, especially perfect for the day after having the heavy Chinese New Year reunion dinner! But according to Chinese tradition, it is a custom not to eat porridge on New Year’s Day while it’s considered that only poor and sick people eat porridge for breakfast. So having porridge on New Year’s day morning is a bad omen of poverty, sickness and the shortage of food. If you really want to have porridge, better wait until the end of Chinese New Year!

Taboo: Don’t eat meat for breakfast on New Year’s Day

If porridge signifies poverty, why can’t we have an abundant meal with meat? According to Chinese tradition, meat should not be eaten in the New Year’s Day morning while it’s unlucky to kill animals, see blood and the dead body at the beginning of a year. Killing animals will bring bad omen such as "knife disaster”, “blood disaster” etc. So there will be quite a lot of Chinese having vegetarian diet for breakfast on New Year’s Day.

Taboo: Don’t eat the whole fish and chicken

Steamed fish and deep fried crispy chicken is always the staples Chinese festival banquet. But beware this time, don’t eat the whole fish and chicken at Chinese New Year reunion dinner and remember to leave the head and the tail! The fish custom is related to a Chinese New Year greeting phrase “nyen-nyen yo yo” (年年有餘) which fish pronounce as “you” in Cantonese and it sound like the word for abundance. Not eating the fish properly symbolise "always have more than you need" and. And the chicken also has to present whole to symbolise completeness and togetherness!

Auspicious: Eating vegetarian dishes (Buddha’s Delight) on New Year’s Day

In southern China, it is a custom to eat the vegetarian dishes for the breakfast on the New Year’s Day. Except for not killing lives and seeing blood on New Year's Day, eating vegetarian dishes is also an act of piety and cleansing. Buddha’s Delight is the most common vegetarian dishes served in Chinese households, which normally include black mushrooms, cellophane noodles, daylily buds, “fat choy”, snow peas, wood ear, bok choy etc. Even vegetarian food can also be abundant!

Auspicious: Eating sweet rice dumplings (Tong Yuen) on New Year’s Eve

Sweet rice dumpling is a common Chinese dessert normally served in Chinese Festival as Tong Yuen in Cantonese sounds like the word “Tun Yuen”, which means reunion. So eating sweet rice dumpling with sugary soup in Chinese tradition symbolize sweet and togetherness. But beware of the quantity, size and the filling of the dumplings. The filling must be sweet, the quantity must be even and the size must be big!

Auspicious: Filling the rice jar before Chinese New Year

As rice is a symbol of wealth and fertility in Chinese tradition, many Chinese households will fill the rice jar to the brim and stored cooking oil before Chinese New Year. A lot of rice and oil represent you will start a new year with wealth and happiness!

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