A sense of community, family, and belonging have always been at the helm of Chinese culture as it is embedded in the country’s values; the biggest representation of celebrating such values is during Chinese New Year.
During the Chinese New Year, the country’s population and expats all come together to celebrate this holiday in the most vibrant and festive of ways from New York all the way to Beijing.
And for the proud Chinese people nothing screams family and community than their focus on food and the notion of sitting down all together to share delicious food amongst each other.
As we all know, one of the most beautiful aspects of Chinese culture is presence of a deeper, and genuine meaning to everything they do.
Everything has a backstory, meaning, belonging, and a purpose; which is why we, at The Edward Hotel, will be explaining the origins of the main traditional dishes eaten during Chinese New Year to better help you understand the meaning behind them.
As with Chinese New Year activities and decorations, the dishes are created to give blessings for the next year.
It is very important to note the significance of this holiday on the Chinese people, since All family members must come back home. Even if they truly can’t, the rest of the family will leave their spot empty and place a spare set of utensils for them.
So let’s break down the main elements of the Chinese New Year Traditional dinner:
Because they look like bars of gold, spring rolls are a wish for prosperity and wealth.
Most are familiar with the deep fried version of spring rolls. Throughout China, they can also be steamed or baked. Size and shape vary from small rectangles to large flat circles.
During the Jin Dynasty (circa 265-420), people would arrange spring rolls and vegetables together on a plate. This was known as the Spring Platter. During the Spring Festival, emperors would award officials with Spring Platters. Each platter is said to have been worth thousands.
Another well-known dish, dumplings are the northern equivalent of spring rolls. They are eaten during every special occasion, but are the most significant during Chinese New Year. That’s a lot of dumplings! But for good reason.
Dumplings are shaped like ancient Chinese silver and gold ingots. By wrapping dumplings, you are wrapping in the fortune. After eating them, you will live a wealthy and prosperous life.
There are too many different types of filling to count. You can have whatever type of meat, vegetable and flavor you’d like.
Some people will also put a coin in a random dumpling. Whoever eats it will have great luck that year.
In some places, it’s custom to cook dumplings and noodles together. This is called gold silk and gold ingots. It’s yet another dish to express people’s wishes for prosperity.
In the beginning, they were called “soup pancakes”. People would tear the dough into little pieces and throw them into the pot. It wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty when people began rolling them into the noodle shape known today.
For Chinese New Year, people like to eat long noodles.
They are also called, which means “longevity noodles.” You aren’t allowed to cut them and should try not to chew either. The longer the noodle, the longer your life will be. This calls for a lot of slurping.
People will steam a whole fish for the New Year Eve’s dinner.
Half of the fish is eaten for dinner, and the second half the next day. This is to prolong the surplus and make the future prosperous as well. A whole fish also represents a harmonious and whole family.
Some would cook a bigheaded carp. But only the middle would be eaten, while the head and tail are left intact. This is a reminder to finish everything you start and wish for positive results.
A whole chicken is another symbol of family.
Rich in protein, one chicken is enough to feed an entire family since it represents reunion and rebirth. To express this auspicious meaning, people keep the head and claws.
In Hubei, chicken soup is the first meal of the new year considering it a wish for peace. The main workers of the family should eat chicken feet. This is supposed to help them grasp onto wealth. Chicken wings help you fly higher, while the bones represent outstanding achievement.
A dish of all sorts of vegetables put together can always be seen on the table during New Years. Some symbolic vegetables to consider are:
Seaweed: symbolizing wealth and fortune
Lotus seeds: a blessing for many children and a healthy family
Bamboo shoots: representing longevity, as well as going onward and up
Muskmelon and grapefruit: symbolize family and hope.
The bubbling soup in the pot gives off a warm and festive feeling.
Hot pot is another food that has a long history. Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty is the most avid fan. When he held feasts for old and retired officials, hot pot with meat were always on the menu. During his New Year’s Eve dinner, there were 120 dishes for lunch and even more for hot pot.
Despite being loved by commoners and royalty alike; hot pots are actually quite basic. It’s simply a bubbling pot and plates of uncooked meat and vegetables. You can choose whatever you like to throw into the pot. Wait until it’s cooked, take it out and eat.
The reason for its popularity is for the diversity of its broth.
If you’re looking to celebrate Chinese New Year in London, then the demonstrations, festivities, markets and many activities can be found in Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, West End, and Chinatown which are very easy to reach from our location in Paddington.
Chinese New Year falls on the 25th of January, and will take place on the 26th of January 2020.
If you need any extra information regarding transportation, event details, recommendations or anything else, please refer to our front desk as they will be happy to answer your every inquiry!
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