Foods and Flavors for Lunar New Year 2024
Centered around luck and prosperity, the Lunar New Year is a holiday worth celebrating regardless of cultural heritage. Many US cities with large Chinese populations, including San Francisco, Houston, and New York, host spectacular events to commemorate the day. Here’s what Lunar New Year (sometimes called the Spring Festival) is all about and the foods it’s most associated with.
When is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year falls on February 10th in 2024. The date differs every year because the holiday is based on a lunisolar calendar that follows the moon’s phases. Although the date may vary, Chinese New Year must fall between January 21 and February 21, typically on the night of the new moon closest to spring. The festive period lasts 16 days after Chinese New Year’s Eve, ending in the Lantern Festival, which takes place during the full moon.
Celebrating Lunar New Year in China
In China, people celebrate throughout the festival period by decorating their homes in red, exchanging gifts, and spending time with family. On New Year’s Eve, families share a reunion dinner and give children money-containing red envelopes called lìshì. Honoring the dead is an integral part of the Chinese New Year. Families often set an extra place at the table during the reunion dinner to invite their ancestors to the meal.
Other Lunar New Year festivities include setting off fireworks and participating in dragon or lion dances that are said to bring prosperity. For the first few days after New Year’s Day, Chinese people avoid cleaning their homes, which is said to sweep away good luck.
4 Lucky Foods for Chinese New Year 2024
- Fish Dishes
The Chinese word for fish is yú, which sounds similar to the words for surplus, abundance, and plenty. Therefore, fish is seen as a lucky dish and has become essential to Lunar New Year festivities. In some parts of China, people don’t eat the fish’s head and tail until after the new year begins to symbolize starting and ending with surplus wealth.
- Pork Belly
Pork was once a special treat in China, reserved for festivals like Lunar New Year. While more widespread today, the meat still tends to go hand-in-hand with holiday celebrations. For a taste of tradition, try steaming pork belly until soft and tender, then pairing it with a sweet Asian-inspired sauce. The Chinese also often use pork to make lion’s head meatballs on New Year’s Eve.
- Dumplings and Spring Rolls
These delicacies are symbols of wealth in China, and spring rolls get their name from how often they are made during the Spring Festival. According to tradition, the more dumplings you eat on Chinese New Year’s Eve, the more money you will make throughout the year! Fill your dumplings with minced pork and shredded vegetables for an authentic Chinese dish.
- Oranges and Tangerines
Chéng is the Chinese word for orange, which sounds similar to the word for success. Many Chinese people eat citrus during Lunar New Year celebrations to bring luck to their homes. Anything round in shape represents wholeness, while the warm color of the peel shimmers like gold in specific lighting.
Incorporating Chinese Flavors Into Western Foods
Chinese cuisine bursts with flavor. It often pairs interesting sweet and salty elements in Western cooking. Today, US consumers are hungry for foreign flavor infusions, and Asian ingredients like soy, sesame, and ginger are becoming more mainstream.
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