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8 Hidden Meaning Behind Chinese New Year Foods You Probably Didn’t Know!

By LingoAce SG Team |SG |February 9, 2024

Chinese Cultures
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Chinese New Year, also known as the spring festival is a festivity widely celebrated by Chinese communities globally, resonates with profound significance and cherished traditions. Amidst its array of customs and celebrations, few moments rival the anticipation and warmth of the reunion dinner on New Year's Eve. Even in Singapore, where different cultures and races intermingle seamlessly, this annual gathering remains steadfast and popular. 

Aside from celebrating with friends and family, the Chinese New Year is also 15 whole days of celebrations that involves lots of eating and feasting! Throughout Singaporean households, the New Year's feast is a time when families unite to honour age-old traditions and usher in blessings for the year ahead.     From elaborate banquet spreads to intimate family gathering, traditional snacks and dishes served during Chinese New Year embodies centuries-old customs and symbolic meanings that you may not be aware of. These culinary treasures not only tantalize the palate but also serve as vessels for cultural heritage and familial connection. Without further ado, let us dive into 8 traditional and tasty snacks and food served during Chinese New Year that you may not know its hidden meaning. 

1. Nian Gao (Sticky Rice Cake)

Nian Gao, also known as sticky rice cake, is a traditional Chinese New Year delicacy made from glutinous rice flour. Its name is a homophone for "higher year," symbolizing continuous improvement and progress. In Singaporean cuisine, the red sugar Nian Gao, steamed to perfection, represents sweetness and prosperity. Often molded into shapes resembling fish or gold ingots, Nian Gao is a staple on New Year's Eve, promising a year filled with abundance and good fortune.

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2. Jiaozi (Dumplings) 

Jiaozi, or dumplings, symbolize wealth and prosperity due to their resemblance to ancient Chinese currency. While dumplings are customary in Chinese New Year celebrations, Singaporean Chinese, influenced by Southern Chinese traditions, often opt for Tang Yuan (sweet rice balls) instead. Tang Yuan signifies family unity and completeness, emphasizing the importance of togetherness and harmony during the festive season. 

3. Fish

A whole fish, served during the Chinese New Year feast, symbolizes surplus and abundance for the coming year. The tradition of leaving leftovers underscores the desire for continuous prosperity and completeness in all aspects of life. In Singaporean households, fish is a centerpiece dish, enjoyed for its auspicious symbolism and delicious taste. 

4. Longevity Noodles

Longevity noodles, representing a long and prosperous life, are a customary dish during Chinese New Year celebrations. In Singapore, these noodles are often served with mustard greens and a fried egg, symbolizing vitality and renewal. As families gather around the table to share a bowl of longevity noodles, they express their hopes for health, happiness, and longevity in the new year. 

5. Dragon Phoenix Platter

The Dragon Phoenix Platter is a symbolic dish featuring a whole chicken representing the phoenix and a lobster symbolizing the dragon. This auspicious combination signifies prosperity, abundance, and marital harmony. With its exquisite ingredients and vibrant flavors, the Dragon Phoenix Platter is a highlight of the Lunar New Year feast, captivating the senses and igniting feelings of joy and optimism.

6. Poon Choi (Big Bowl Feast)

Poon Choi, originating from Hong Kong and embraced by Singaporean Chinese, is a grand dish symbolizing wealth and abundance. This communal feast features layers of ingredients such as vegetables, meats, and seafood, arranged in a large bowl. Poon Choi reflects the spirit of togetherness and unity, as families gather to share in the blessings of the new year while enjoying a feast fit for royalty.

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7. Yu Sheng (Prosperity Toss)

Yu Sheng, a unique Singaporean-Chinese dish, is a colorful salad featuring raw fish slices, shredded vegetables, and various condiments. The act of tossing the ingredients high while shouting auspicious phrases symbolizes abundance, prosperity, and good fortune. As families partake in the Prosperity Toss, they express their collective hopes for success, happiness, and prosperity in the coming year. 

8. Bak Kwa (Barbecued Meat Jerky)

Bak Kwa, a beloved delicacy during the Lunar New Year festivities, symbolizes prosperity and good fortune. This barbecued meat jerky, often made from pork, is cherished for its sweet and savory flavor profile. In Singapore, Bak Kwa holds a special place in the hearts of celebrants, evoking feelings of abundance and joy. As families gather to indulge in this delectable treat, Bak Kwa serves as a reminder of the blessings and prosperity that the new year may bring. 

Beyond the culinary delights, the New Year feast fosters moments of genuine connection and familial warmth. It is a time for laughter, storytelling, and reflection—a cherished opportunity to strengthen the bonds that unite loved ones and communities. 

As the aroma of savory delicacies fills the air and the clinking of chopsticks resonates through households, the spirit of the Lunar New Year permeates every corner of Singapore. It is a time of shared blessings and collective optimism, where hopes for prosperity and harmony abound.

Looking ahead, the significance of the Chinese New Year feast in Singapore endures as a beacon of cultural heritage and familial solidarity. Its traditions are passed down through generations, ensuring that the spirit of celebration and reverence for the past continue to flourish in the years to come. As Singaporeans gather to welcome each new Lunar New Year, they embrace not only the promise of a fresh beginning but also the timeless traditions that bind them together, making each celebration a testament to the enduring legacy of their culture. Want your child to learn more of such content? For the Month of February, simply sign up for a free trial, to receive a free 和LingoAce一起过春节 CNY Special recorded class!

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