When the Chinese New Year arrives, certain foods are eaten for their symbology. “Lucky food” is regularly served during the 16-day festival, particularly on New Year’s Eve, which prophesies good luck for the year ahead. Not only do the dishes matter, but their preparation, the way they are served, and the method of consumption all hold a lot of meaning as well.
A Popular New Year’s Dish
The most common Chinese New Year foods include fish, dumplings, niangao, and spring rolls. Fish is especially auspicious because the word, “fish,” in the Chinese language also sounds like the word for “surplus.” Because the Chinese people enjoy having a “surplus” at year’s end, fish is a popular New Year’s dish for symbolic reasons.
Lucky New Year’s Food
Fish can be cooked in a number of different ways. Some of these methods include steaming, boiling, or braising. The more famous fish dishes include fish with chili and pickled cabbage, steamed fish in vinegar, and fish that is boiled in a spicy broth. The fish that are eaten during the New Year celebrations feature names that are based on lucky-sounding homophonic words.
For instance, “catfish” in Chinese sound like “year surplus.” So, again, eating the fish represents a wish for a surplus in the coming year. Consuming two fish, one on New Year’s Eve and the other one on New Year’s Day (if written in a specific way), sounds like a wish for a surplus year after year.
Mud Carp is Considered to be a Lucky New Year’s Fish
The Chinese mud carp is also a New Year’s fish. The first part of “mud carp” in Chinese is pronounced like the Chinese word for “gifts.” Therefore, eating mud carp during the New Year is a symbol for a wish of good luck. The same holds true for crucian carp. The first character of the calligraphic character of the word sounds liked the Chinese word for “good luck.”
So, if you choose a fish-based meal during the Chinese New Year celebration, make sure you find just the right selection on your Chinese takeaway menu in Bristol. Whilst you may not spot carp on the menu, you are sure to find some type of fish choice that will signal “good luck” for the upcoming year.
When eating fish, make sure the fish you select is the last dish that remains, and that some of the fish is left over. Following this practice ensures that you will, once again, receive surpluses each year. This type of custom is religiously practised north of China’s Yangtze River. In other areas, the tail and head of a fish should not be consumed until the start of the New Year. Doing so expresses the wish that the year will begin and finish with a bountiful surplus.
Of course, you don’t have to worry about eating the head or tail of a fish if you live in the UK and order takeaway. Just make sure that fish is chosen as your main dish when celebrating the Chinese New Year holiday. Just to get you in the mood for picking a fish entrée, you can memorise the following lucky New Year’s saying: “May you always have more than you ever want or need.”