Get out your broom and sweep away the past: the Year of the Rat begins January 25, 2020! Learn about the symbolic food of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

By Allrecipes Editors
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Lunar New Year is a time to gather with family, honor ancestors, and share a feast with foods that symbolize prosperity in the New Year. Join in and cook up lucky Lunar New Year recipes for your own celebration.

Lunar New Year Celebrations

You'll know that the party has officially begun when you see people dressed in red and hear fireworks exploding in the street—both intended to scare off a legendary man-eating beast, Nian.

Food Symbolism for Chinese New Year

Most of the dishes served during Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year and Spring Festival) are symbolic of something positive and hopeful. Here are some of the most popular types of foods served during Chinese New Year celebrations.

Dumplings or Jiaozi

Symbolizing wealth and prosperity. In some areas of China, coins are placed in the center of jiaozi. Whoever bites into one of these dumplings will have an exceptionally lucky year.

Try this recipe for Chinese Pork Dumplings

More dumpling recipes to try:

Pork

Symbolizing strength, wealth, and blessings.

Try this recipe for Chinese Barbeque Pork (Char Siu)

More pork recipes to try:

Char Siu Pork

Stir-Fry Pork with Ginger

Dong Po (Chinese Pork Belly)

Fish

Synbolizing happiness and prosperity — especially when served whole.

Try this recipe for Authentic Chinese Steamed Fish

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More fish recipes to try:

Shui Zhu Yu (Sichuan Boiled Fish)

Florn's Chinese Steamed Fish

Citrus Carp

Chicken

Symbolizing family and unity.

Try this recipe for Hunan Kung Pao

DIZ

More chicken recipes to try:

Chef John's Cashew Chicken

Pea Shoots and Chicken in Garlic Sauce

Moo Goo Gai Pan

Noodles

Symbolizing longevity, so leave them long and don't cut them up to serve.

Try this recipe for Chinese Hand-Pulled Noodles

More noodle recipes to try:

Spicy Tan Tan Soup (Tantanmen or Dan Dan Noodles)

Long Soup

Chinese Glass Noodle Soup

Spring Rolls

Symbolize wealth.

Try this recipes for Authentic Chinese Egg Rolls

More Good Luck Dishes for Chinese Lunar New Year

Good luck dishes are also chosen based on homonyms — words that either are spelled the same or sound the same as other words. Fish (yu) is served because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for plenty; whole fish represents abundance. Turnips are cooked because their name (cai tou) also means "good luck."

Niangao — a steamed sweet cake made of glutinous rice — is a popular dessert for the new year, as it is a homonym for "higher year." Try this baked version topped with sesame seeds, another good luck food:

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Dishes made with oranges represent wealth and good fortune because they are China's most plentiful fruit. Bean curd or tofu, however, is avoided because its white color suggests death and misfortune.

Host your own Lunar New Year party

Take part in the traditions, fun, and virtues of this important holiday.

  • Help your kids make snakes and lanterns with colorful crepe paper, and hang them throughout your house.
  • Make homemade fortune cookies and write creative fortunes to delight and amuse your guests.
  • At the stroke of midnight, open your doors and windows to release the stresses of the old year.

Try this recipe for Lunar New Year Peanut Cookies.

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