Chinese Dishes Symbolize Abundance

Grayce Nelson, Opinion Reporter

In the United States, on December 31, we say good-bye to the year and prepare to ring in the new year when the clock strikes 12. The celebrations are known to last throughout the night. On January 1st we make our typical new year’s resolutions and thereafter, the parties end and we proceed about our normal activities. 


However, compared to America, things are much different in the Chinese culture as they bring in the new year. 


 Starting February 12th and lasting 15 days, the Chinese New Year (Lantern Festival) is in full effect. Chinese New Year starts with the new moon on the first day of the first lunar month and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The activities include putting up big colorful decorations, spring couplets (pairs of propitious verses written in black or gold ink on red paper), offering sacrifices to ancestors,  reunion dinner, watching China Central Television’s (CCTV) New Year Gala, giving red envelopes (Lucky Money) to kids and much more. 


However, when it comes to food, the Chinese culture is really prosperous.


In the Chinese culture, many foods such as fish, spring rolls, rice cakes, noodles, and dumplings have symbolic meanings and are served during the celebration for good luck throughout the year. Fish In Chinese, “fish” (鱼 Yú /yoo/) sounds like “surplus.” Fish is a traditional dish on the CNY dinner menu. Chinese residents like to have a surplus at the end of the year, because they think if they have managed to save something at the end of the year, then they can make more in the next year. 


North Little Rock High School Chinese Language teacher Lydia Lu says, “When you eat the fish, don’t eat all of it, so you can have more for next year, an abundant life.” 


Spring rolls, known as “Chun Juan” in Chinese, are eaten as a symbol of wealth and prosperity, the lucky saying for eating spring rolls is “Hwung-Jin Wan-Lyang,” which translates to “a ton of gold.”  The Chinese word for rice cakes sounds like “getting taller year-on-by year.” This means the higher in class you are, the more prosperous your business is. Noodles are eaten for happiness and longevity. The last dish, Chinese dumplings, means wealth and money. 


 Lu added, “Some dumplings have a golden color, which resembles gold, of course for wealth.” It also looks like small metal ingots that were used in ancient China as money. 


Dumplings generally consist of minced meat and finely-chopped vegetables wrapped in a thin and elastic dough skin. Popular fillings are minced pork, diced shrimp, fish, ground chicken, beef, and vegetables. They can be cooked by boiling, steaming, frying or baking. Different dumpling fillings also have different meanings. People in China don’t eat Chinese sauerkraut (酸菜 suāncài /swann-tseye/) dumplings at Spring Festival, because it implies a poor and difficult future. On New Year’s Eve it is a tradition to eat dumplings with cabbage and radish, implying that one’s skin will become fair and one’s mood will become gentle.


Chinese dumplings are also very popular in the U.S. You can find them at most Americanized- Chinese restaurants, or you can make them yourself.

Chinese New Year is celebrated with an abundance of dishes.