Essential foods for Chinese New Year's Eve

The first day of the first lunar month is Spring Festival, the beginning of a new year for China. Spring Festival is China's biggest extravaganza and a day for family reunion. Being around family members at the turn of the year is a vital ritual for the Chinese people.

The Spring Festival celebration is a continuous process, starting from the 23rd or 24th of the 12th lunar month. People often worship the kitchen god, clean their houses, do their shopping and put up Spring Festival couplets (blessing words posted on door frames) until New Year's Eve on the lunar calendar.

In addition to staying up late on New Year's Eve, having an elaborate dinner is also key to the Spring Festival celebration. The New Year's Eve dinner has been manifested in different ways around China.

Those in South China must have a dish of fish, because "fish" in Chinese sounds similar to the character for "prosperity", symbolizing an abundant and comfortable life. Those in North China often eat dumplings, which symbolize "reunion" and "fortune".

Spring Festival is just around the corner. Let's take a look at some essential dishes on the New Year's Eve dinner table!


Dumplings are a very common dish for northern China, symbolizing reunion and fortune. Dumplings' shape resembles gold ingots from ancient China. For Chinese people, eating some dumplings means bringing more treasure and wealth in the coming New Year.

Sweet dumplings

Sweet dumplings are made from glutinous rice flour. The fillings can vary from region to region. The round shape of the sweet dumplings symbolizes "reunion".


"Fish" in Chinese sounds similar to the character for "prosperity", symbolizing an abundant and comfortable life. Most families will have fish for their New Year's Eve dinner.

Lion-head meatballs

One of the representative dishes of Huaiyang cuisine, it has a lucky connotation from its name.

Poon choi

A regular dish in southern China, the magnificent and auspicious poon choi contains up to 20 luxury ingredients served in a big wooden or clay-pot bowl.

Eight treasure rice cake

The eight treasure rice cake is a quintessential Chinese New Year dessert. Many families across the nation choose to finish their meal with this dessert.

Hot pot

Those in Southwest China's Sichuan province may choose to have a meal of hot pot for their New Year Eve's dinner. As everyone eats from the same pot, it is also a symbol of reunion.

Braised pork

During less economically developed times, people often had to wait a full year to enjoy a meat dish. Braised pork, or hongshaorou in Chinese, is part of a mouthwatering memory of New Year's Eve dinner for many Chinese of the older generation.

Buddha jumping over the wall

This is a soup that is popular in South China. It uses luxury ingredients, such as sea cucumber, abalone, shark fin, dried scallops, ham and more. Its name comes from the tantalizing scent of the soup, enough to lure a Buddha, who is vegetarian, to want to jump over the wall and drink it.

Rice cakes

Most people in South China will have rice cakes for Spring Festival due to its auspicious meaning: Wishing to be elevated (in whatever area one desires) in the New Year.


Lettuce, or shengcai in Chinese, sounds similar to the Chinese phrase "gaining fortune". It is not hard to see why people across the nation would opt for this vegetable dish.

A dish of tofu

The Chinese pronunciation for tofu sounds similar to "luck for all" – "Tofu, Tofu, mouthful of 'Fu' (happiness)". Tofu is also winning over people's hearts and stomachs for its health benefits.

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