What to Eat for First Meal of Chinese New Year?
Folk traditions and customs of the New Year meal vary across China: Northerners eat dumplings, Southerners eat rice dumpling, Nian-Gao; In Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong and other places, people eat Tangyuan, either deep-fried or broiled; In Zhangzhou (Fujian), new year starts with eating raw garlic and preserved eggs; In Chaozhou (Guangdong) people eat locally unique “rotten balls”.
In one word, “Customs are different from area to area even if they are located only more than 50 kilometers away from one another.”
Here, I will show you some examples how Chinese people in different regions start their New Year with the first meal.
Eating wonton at New Year is because that it means “Chaos, the beginning of universe”. In Chinese legend, Pan Gu split the universe on the “opening-day” so that the “light elements rise and become the heaven, heavier elements condense and become the earth” as to put an end to the chaotic state of the universe.
In Hunan, New Year’s first meal must have “Nian Gao”, literally “year cake”, which means “higher year” or “better year on year”
In some places in Hubei, Chicken Soup is required for first meal, symbolizing the “Clarity and Serenity.” Labor would also like to eat chicken feet, intended to “grasping wealth”; young students eat chicken wings, which means to “fly higher”.
Chongqing: “Braised Pork” and “Stuffed Green Pepper” are essential. In order to prepare a good dinner, many essential non-traditional entrees have to be prepared 10 days or half-month in advance.
Yanbian, Jilin Province: “Year wine” and “Degu”. This wine can ward off evil and gain longevity. “Degu” is a kind of rice noodle soup.
Beijing: Apart from the dinner dishes, Old Beijing snack, pastries are also popular, such as honey cake and Saqima. They were only used in ritual ceremonies or worships for the ancestors in the old days.
In Guangxi, Zhuang people have sweets for first meal, meaning a beautiful life and sweet wishes in the new year.
Shanghai: At New Year Eve dinner, the germinating beans and bean sprouts are always there, because they symbolize fortune and promotion, as well as very good luck.
In Poyang region of Jiangxi Province, first meal is dumplings and fish, which mean “handover of time” and “surplus every year”, respectively. And some put candy, flowers or silver coins in the dumplings, which means “sweet life”, “longevity”, and “New Year’s fortune.”
Fujian: Southern Fujian people have noodles for first meal. It means to have “a long life”. In Zhangzhou area, people eat sausages, century eggs and ginger, which means “Live Long and Prosper :).”
Taiwan: First New Year meal is to eat “Longevity Greens”, which is a type Mustard Greens with long stem & leaves, and a bitter taste. Some add rice noodles to the soup to emphasize the “longevity” wishes.
In some parts of Henan, the first meal is to have rice dumplings and noodles together, called “Sycee threaded with golden wire”, “Silver Line hanging gourd.”
In some parts of Anhui, before the first meal, everyone bites a piece of radish. It is called “bite the spring”, which means “sterilization and disease prevention, New Year’s good luck.”
What are you planning to have for Chinese New Year? Go and try some at your local Chinese restaurants!