Lunar New Year Food: 11 Lucky Foods for Your Feast
The Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in many Asian countries, including China, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The importance of this turning of the calendar stems back thousands of years.
In the ancient Chinese world, the Lunar calendar was the primary way agricultural society could tell when to plant and harvest their crops. After thousands of years of celebrating, the Lunar New Year has come to mean ringing in the new year with prosperity and good fortune.
For many people, the most significant part of this celebration is the feast! There are few things more important than ringing in the new Lunar Year with a delicious array of delectable dishes that represent all of the prosperity that awaits you. So, let’s talk about the foods you want on your table this Lunar New Year.
When Is Lunar New Year?
The Lunar New Year falls on a different day every year because the modern calendar focuses on the earth's cycle around the sun, and the lunar calendar centers around the revolutions of the moon.
Each lunar revolution takes about 29 ½ days, so the calendar alternates 29 and 30 days each month. But the lunar year only takes up about 354 days rather than the 365 days of the solar calendar.
To rectify the lunar calendar with the solar calendar, the lunar calendar has 19-year periods where 12 of those years have 12 months and seven of those years have 13 months.
With that, Lunar New Year falls on a different day every calendar year. In 2023, the Lunar New Year will take place on Sunday, January 22nd.
How Long Does Lunar New Year Last?
The Lunar New Year is a magnificent, long celebration that spans half the moon cycle. It begins with the new moon and ends with the full moon, so the festivities last about 14 days in total.
The public holiday lasts for a week in countries that celebrate. This year, Lunar New Year will last from January 22nd to February 4th.
After these long festivities, the celebration ends with the Lantern Festival on February 5th. It’s a beautiful end to a long period of bringing in prosperity for the new year.
What Is the Lunar New Year 2023 Animal?
One of the most important aspects of the Lunar New Year celebration is the Chinese zodiac animal of that new year. Similar to the astrological zodiac signs like Libra or Taurus, the sign of the year you were born indicate certain things about your personality and characteristics. It is believed that people born in the same zodiac year will share personality traits and other aspects.
The Lunar Calendar is on a 12-year cycle, so there are 12 different animals. This past year was the year of the tiger, but 2023 is the year of the rabbit. Previous years of the rabbit include 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, and so on.
People born in the year of the rabbit are said to be vigilant, witty, quick-minded, and ingenious.
Foods To Eat on Lunar New Year
The dishes you’ll make for your new year’s feast will signify the type of year you will have, so it’s important to create dishes that represent good luck and ring in a new year full of success, prosperity, and happiness.
Here are some Chinese New Year foods that are both lucky and delicious!
1. Jiaozi Dumplings – Wealth
Jiaozi dumplings are one of the most popular new year foods out there. Who doesn’t want to ring in their new year with a delicious symbol of wealth?
Jiaozi dumplings signify wealth because their shape is very similar to the gold ingot, which was the currency in China during the Ming Dynasty.
But these dumplings symbolize more than just monetary wealth — they also symbolize togetherness and heavenly blessings.
You can buy or make these delicious, savory pillows as they are simple enough. Dice whatever ingredients you want to comprise your filling; it could be meat, eggs, tofu, or even vegetables. For the wrapping, make an unleavened dough, or just pick up some pre-made dumpling wrappers to make it easier.
Wrap the delicious filling in the wrappers, wet the edge of the wrapper, and crease the edges together to seal it, creating small folds every few millimeters to give it that classic dumpling look.
Steam them, fry them — whatever you like! This symbol of wealth is extra tasty with garlic-chili oil, hoisin, or another one of your favorite sauces. They’re a hard dish to beat!
2. Spring Rolls – Wealth
Another symbol of wealth is the famous spring roll. The spring roll shape represents a gold bar, the ultimate symbol of wealth. So, if you’re trying to double down on financial prosperity this coming year, add these classic rolls to your spread.
3. Shrimp – Good Fortune
It’s not just specific dishes that carry symbols of prosperity. Even specific ingredients represent the type of year you’re setting up for yourself.
Shrimp is a savory symbol of good fortune. Eating shrimp is said to bring you happiness into your new year.
The idea of good fortune is that of overall success and prosperity. It means more than just wealth, but also joy, health, laughter, success, and betterment. Shrimp is a way to claim that this year is your year, and that you’re going to take it by storm!
4. Rice – Fertility and Luck
If it’s fertility and luck you’re after, make a dish with rice. Specifically, rice is the symbol of the link between heaven and earth. It’s a way of asking the gods to deliver their heavenly blessings upon mortals. By eating rice, you bring divine prosperity into your year.
Rice is also one of the Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty, which represents the sun, moon, constellation of three stars, mountains, dragon, pheasant, two goblets, seaweed, grain, fire, axe head, and Fu symbol. Rice is the dish of prosperity and heavenly success, so you won’t want to leave it out!
5. Pork – Strength
Pork is a common symbol of strength. Maybe you’re anticipating a difficult year with many challenges — pork is a way to tell the world that you will be strong as you face the difficulties that lie ahead.
Pork is also a symbol of abundant blessing. It’s a savory way to show this next year who’s boss, so pull out your favorite pork recipe and bring strength into your new year.
6. Nian Gao – Prosperity
If you’re looking to be extra lucky, make nian gao, a glutinous rice cake. This new year's cake made with sticky rice is a symbol of prosperity that grows with each passing year.
You’ve got to have a dessert for your feast, and what better way to finish off your delicious meal than with a symbol of success and personal betterment? It’s a tasty dish your distinguished guests will love and be blessed by.
7. Noodles – Longevity
Few foods are more comforting than a warm bowl of noodles. One of the most common noodles eaten for the Chinese New Year is the glass noodle, also called the longevity noodle. These noodles, sometimes called silver chains, are made from the mung bean into long threads.
The long, unbroken strand of noodles represents a healthy and long life. The longer your noodle, the longer your life!
Noodles are a versatile ingredient that you can eat with many other foods. Make a warm noodle soup or serve your meat over a plate of piping, fresh noodles. Working some noodles onto the dinner table can make sure you’re able to celebrate many Lunar New Years to come!
8. Chicken – Togetherness
Few things feel as cozy and sentimental as roasted chicken, and there’s nothing quite like the warm feelings that come with being together as a family. That’s why chicken represents togetherness and joy.
Chicken not only helps you celebrate all of the people you’ll be with this New Year’s, but it will also help usher in many more moments of togetherness throughout the year.
If you serve your chicken whole, complete with its head, feet, and tail, you’ll be symbolizing completeness, which is why it’s not uncommon to cook the entire chicken intact to make sure your family’s good fortune is whole and complete.
9. Bamboo Shoots – New Start
Although bamboo shoots aren’t the most well-known ingredient out there, they have a big place in the celebration of the Lunar New Year.
Bamboo shoots symbolize a new start, so it’s no wonder they’re part of many dishes that kick off the new year. A new bamboo shoot, when appropriately planted, springs up quickly out of the ground and grows into a tall plant that is both beautiful and useful. There is no better symbol for a new beginning than a bamboo shoot.
In addition, the Chinese word for bamboo sounds a lot like the phrase that means “wishing that everything would be well.”
Braise them or stir-fry them with some mushrooms, and you’ll have a celebratory side dish to go with your meal.
10. Cabbage – ProsperityCabbage is a staple in the filling that goes in your dumplings, but there are so many other versatile ways to cook this delicious veggie.
As far as symbolism goes, the cabbage represents prosperity for the coming year — in fact, cabbage symbolizes 100 different types of luck. So, if you need a little extra luck this year, you better make cabbage part of your main course!
11. Whole Fish – Togetherness
Eating a whole fish is very similar to eating a whole chicken. It symbolizes intimacy, closeness, and togetherness. But, the fish has a slightly different meaning than the chicken.
The word for fish is pronounced the same as the word for surplus, so eating fish is saying that this year will be full of leftovers and excess in everything from food to money.
If you want to emphasize the family aspect of the Lunar New Year, you can make fish balls, which are a symbol of reunion. There’s nothing quite like eating crispy, fried fish balls with relatives you haven’t seen in quite some time!
What To Avoid During Lunar New Year
The Lunar New Year isn’t just about what you eat. You have to orient your whole life to ring in the new year with success and prosperity. Some things are said to ruin your luck for the New Year, so make sure you avoid these during the celebration.
It’s bad luck to clean at all during the holiday. Spring cleaning is important for the new year, but you must do it before the holiday. Your home needs to be clean before New Year’s Eve so it can be ready to accept all of the blessings about to fill it.
If you have family coming to celebrate or some other important guest, it’s even more critical that you get the house clean and tidy before the celebration begins. If you clean during the holiday, you may be cleaning away the new fortunes that have just been given to you.
Wearing Black or White
It’s taboo to wear black or white during this holiday. Black is a color that represents evil. White is a symbol of death, and it is commonly worn during funerals. You don’t want to ring in the new year with those bad omens around you.
Instead, wear red and gold. These classic Chinese colors symbolize prosperity and togetherness, so make sure you pick your outfits wisely.
Cutting Your Hair
The Chinese word for hair is fa, and the phrase that means “to get rich” is fa cai. So, cutting your hair during the new year is a way of saying that you are cutting off your riches and losing your good fortune—not the best way to start the year.
Make sure you plan your hair appointments accordingly. Cutting it during the 14-day celebration could counter the effects of your dumplings and spring rolls!
Breaking items is considered bad luck during the New Year celebration, so you want to protect your plates and glasses at all costs. But sometimes, this tragedy is simply unavoidable.
If something does happen to break, you should say the phrase sui sui ping an. This unique phrase has a double meaning. On the one hand, it means broken and safe, and on the other hand, it means may you have peace year after year.
There’s protection against this omen if you happen to make a mistake, but you should still try and keep your breakables as safe as you can!
The Lunar New Year is the most memorable celebration of the year, with its traditions dating back thousands and thousands of years. It’s a way to join with ages past in saying that this next year will be better than the last, and that there will be even greater prosperity than before.
For many, the food is arguably the best part of this beautiful celebration. Make sure your feast is a lucky one with all of these delicious foods so you can ring in the new year in the most remarkable and prosperous way!
If you’re looking for a convenient place to find all of the essential ingredients to prepare your table, check out Umamicart for home-delivered Asian groceries.
Umamicart can make your New Year feast all the more convenient and delicious!