Guide to an Auspicious and Delicious Lunar New Year

You may be recuperating from the madness of the December holidays, but in many parts of East Asia, the party is just getting started. Lunar New Year is approaching, and it’s the most important of the traditional Asian holidays. This is a festival that lasts for two weeks after the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, and this year, it begins on January 23rd.

Here at Element Seafood, the lunar New Year is a pretty important holiday for us. It’s a time for celebration, reflection and togetherness, and of course, lots and lots of food. Though brightly colored dragon dances and popping firecrackers may receive the most attention, the real heart of the festivities is decadent feasting. But you can’t just eat any food; there are particular foods that should be eaten to maximize your fortunes in the New Year. These foods are sometimes dictated by appearance. For instance, long noodles are eaten to represent long life, and whole (not chopped) fish and chicken is served to symbolize completeness and togetherness. Dumplings are fried to a golden brown to resemble gold ingots.

Most often though, foods are eaten because of the way they sound in Chinese. They are homophones for auspicious words like prosperity and wealth, so that you are surrounding yourself with good luck from the inside and out! Tangerines and oranges sound similar to the words for gold and wealth, while lotus roots sound like the phrase “abundance year after year.” Fish is popular because it is a homophone for “surplus,” and raw fish salad is served because it means “growing surplus.” Meanwhile, lettuce sounds like the phrase “growing wealth.” Finally, our favorite dish is Hoe See Fat Choy, or dried oysters with hair seaweed, meaning “happy events and prosperity.” This is a close variant on the traditional New Year’s greeting Gong Hei Fat Choy, which means “wishing you prosperity.”

In subsequent posts, we’ll go over some traditional Chinese New Year’s dishes, including whole fish, abalone and dried oysters. If you have a favorite food to share, leave it in a comment below!