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The Arbor Teas Blog

Food and Tea Traditions for the Chinese New Year

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Longevity NoodlesThe Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, is a two-week celebration that culminates with the Chinese Lantern Festival. Like Christmas in the west, the Chinese New Year is often celebrated with big family dinners, as far-flung family members come together to make merry. As such, the Chinese New Year is a food lover’s dream.

Many of the foods that are served during the Chinese New Year symbolize some of the qualities seen as key to a happy life, including fertility (eggs), longevity (noodles) prosperity (fish) and fidelity (duck).

Here are some of the dishes you would see at a traditional Chinese New Year feast:

Chinese Tea Eggs: Tea eggs are a common snack in China and are a perfect addition to the Chinese New Year table. To make them, you hard boil eggs, and crack them, leaving the shell on, and then soak them in steeped black tea. This gives the eggs a beautiful marbled appearance.

Longevity Noodles: Longevity noodles are long wheat noodles, which, thanks to their length are said to symbolize longevity. For this reason, when making longevity noodles or any other noodle dish for the Chinese New Year, you should never break the noodle, which is considered to be bad luck.

Steamed Fish: Steamed fish is another traditional Chinese dish, and, because fish represents prosperity, it’s a common to see it during Chinese New Year feasts. In China, fish is always served whole, eyes and all. So, if you want to prosper (and we know you do) give it a go.

Roast Duck or Chicken: In China, duck represents fidelity while chicken (when served whole) represents unity, which is why it’s often served at the New Year’s Eve reunion dinner.

Dumplings: Yet another symbol of prosperity, dumplings are cooked and eaten right after midnight on New Years Day. It’s common for the cook to tuck a coin inside one of the dumplings, the recipient of which is thought to be in for a very lucky year.

Seeds, Tangerines and Oranges: Seeds, including lotus and watermelon seeds, are eaten around the New Year and other festive occasions, such as weddings, to encourage fertility and joy, respectively. Tangerines and oranges are eaten because their names, in Mandarin, sound similar to the Mandarin words for “luck” and “wealth.

Nian Gao (Higher Year) Cake: The traditional Chinese New Year cake, Nian Goa is a simple cake made from brown sugar, sweet rice flower and dates. Like other New Year foods, Nian Goa is said to bring prosperity in the new year.

Tray of Togetherness: During the two-week celebration, many will open their homes to friends and neighbors, and serve a variation of the “tray of togetherness.” This octagonal tray usually combines sweets, such as candied melon and cookies, and lotus seeds, peanuts and watermelon seeds.

And of course, tea is usually served to guests as well! Happy Chinese New Year to all of our readers!