For 170 years, Chinese Canadians have lived in British Columbia and brought a special culture and traditions filled with food and family. January 25th, 2020 marks the first day of the Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the rat, the first animal in the zodiac and which represents the beginning of a new day.
Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner is a very important celebration and all family should be there—even if someone can’t make it, a place with chopsticks is held in their honour. This most important holiday is filled with food—the pride of so many Chinese families. Many of the traditional dishes are created to give blessings for the new year and represent wealth, luck, prosperity and happiness.
Spring rolls look like bars of gold symbolizing wealth. Dumplings are ‘little purses’ and also wrap wealth up for the new year. Families often do the wrapping of dumplings as an activity of togetherness in the New Year preparations. All the dumplings must be wrapped by midnight of New Year’s Eve!
Long noodles symbolize longevity in life—so the longer the better! They shouldn’t be cut or even chewed—slurp slurp.
Fish symbolizes surplus and wealth—it can be added to noodles or served whole, but only half gets eaten on New Year’s Eve. Half should be saved for the next day to prolong the surplus and make the future prosperous. A whole fish also represents a harmonious and whole family.
Stir-fried vegetables, symbolizing or actually using up all the winter stored vegetables in preparation for spring, is also a common dish. Chinese greens and cabbage are common as well as mushrooms and bamboo shoots, which also symbolize longevity and getting taller/moving up.
Finally, hot pot can be a way to include many auspicious foods as well as a warming dish for the centre of your family table. It’s simply a bubbling broth that you cook vegetables, protein foods and even noodles in (similar to a European-style broth fondue). Fill the time while you wait for everything to cook with fun family conversations about the exciting year ahead and everyone’s wishes for success!