Since Friday 31st January the year of the wooden horse is upon us and for me this arrival is always full of symbols and meanings. My childhood Chinese New Year memories can be translated in terms of images, flavors, smells and…many superstitions. Cleaning thoroughly the house with my brothers, few days before the New Year to chase away evil spirits was amongst my tasks! Food is very important in the Chinese culture so it is not very surprising to see it play such an important role for this event.
There is a strong symbolic significance associated to the dishes prepared:
A whole chicken represents family togetherness.
Long noodles represent a long life (so it would be bad luck to cut them).
Spring rolls and Jiaozi (dumplings) represents wealth since they resemble gold bars.
Some food might also be prepared because of the way its Chinese name sound:
Lettuce sounds like “rising fortune”.
Tangerines and oranges respectively sound like “luck” and “wealth”. They are often passed on to friends and family and the quantity to offer will always be an even number.
Pomelo sounds like the verb “to have”.
The Chinese word fish sounds like “wish” and “abundance”. A fish dish will often be served with the head and the tail to symbolize family unity and a good beginning and ending for the coming year.
Sweet food is not left out either as sticky rice cakes filled with peanuts and sesame seeds are often served. Those fillings represent good luck and can also be associated with fertility. Egg custard tarts with many layers flaky pastry symbolizes rising abundance for the year to come and their round shape will bring good family reunion.
Want to know what a traditional meal could be? Here are some photos of what my mother prepared this year!
Feeling hungry? Your stomach is making noise and you feel like having some Chinese food? Put on something red (to chase away bad spirits and get good luck) and go and try out some of the food I have just mentioned! One of my favorite in Madrid is in the “barrio de Usera” called Royal Cantones.
Bonus: for the first few days of the New Year, don´t bother sweeping your house, it could sweep away your good luck as well…no cleaning this week!