Happy Chinese New Year! Symbolism, Traditions, and New Seafood Recipes
Chinese New Year is right around the corner! Integral to Chinese New Year celebrations is the culinary tradition, where seafood holds a special place, symbolizing abundance, prosperity, and renewal.
Across China and worldwide, families gather to share lavish meals, with dishes like whole fish representing unity and a good beginning and end to the year.
This blog post delves into the vibrant customs surrounding Chinese New Year, highlighting the significance of seafood in ushering in luck and fortune. We'll explore traditional dishes, their meanings, and how they contribute to the festive spirit.
When is Chinese New Year 2024?
Chinese New Year 2024 falls on Saturday, February 10th and lasts until February 24th.
How is the date decided?
Celebrated in China for thousands of years, the Lunar New Year holiday is based on a complex calendar combining both the cycles of the moon and the Earth’s orbit around the sun. The Lunar Calendar is typically 21-51 days behind the internationally-used, Gregorian calendar.
How long is Chinese New Year?
Celebrations last up to 16 days, but only the first 7 days, February 10th–February 16th, 2024, are considered a public holiday.
What is the 2024 Chinese Zodiac?
The Chinese zodiac operates on a 12-year cycle, with each year associated with a specific animal sign. The year 2024 in the Chinese zodiac is the Year of the Dragon. Each animal sign also cycles through five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The element for 2024's Dragon year is Wood, making it the Year of the Wood Dragon.
Significance of the Wood Dragon:
The Wood Dragon in Chinese astrology holds significant meaning, blending the characteristics of the Dragon sign with the qualities of the Wood element.
Dragon Characteristics: In Chinese culture, the Dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. Dragons are seen as ambitious, energetic, and passionate. They are also thought to be charismatic, with a natural ability to lead and inspire others. Dragons are considered imaginative, innovative, and always eager for new challenges.
Wood Element Influence: The Wood element, according to Chinese Five Elements theory, brings additional traits to the Dragon's personality. Wood is associated with growth, vitality, and expansion. It signifies qualities like warmth, generosity, and co-operation. Wood elements are thought to enhance creativity and idealism.
Wood Dragon Combination: When combining the Dragon's characteristics with the Wood element, the Wood Dragon is perceived as a particularly powerful and auspicious symbol. Wood Dragons are believed to be:
- Creative and Innovative
- Visionary Leaders
- Persistent and Resolute
- Generous and Ethical
New Year celebrations begin the night before the holiday (the night of February 9th), similar to the international New Year holiday.
CNY holiday is centered around welcoming the good new and removing the old. The Chinese use the holiday as a time to worship ancestors, exorcize evil spirits, and pray for abundant harvests. Typical celebrations include lion and dragon dances, temple fairs, flower markets, and red packets, known as hongbao, filled with cash.
Food and drinks are an essential part of New Year celebrations. There are several layers of symbolism involved when it comes to “Lucky” dishes, including what the food’s name sounds like when it is said aloud, how it is prepared, and the way it is served.
Many families will gather together to share a New Year’s Eve Dinner the night before the turn of the year. It is treated as an occasion to create a family reunion and is considered the most important dinner of the year.
Importance of Fish in CNY Celebrations:
Dishes and food customs vary across different regions in China. For instance, in Northern China, the star is typically “Jiaozi” (dumplings) with fillings such as vegetables, meat, and seafood. Meanwhile, in Southern China and coastal areas, there are more colorful feasts with fish as a staple.
Across the country, fish is one of the most important symbolic dishes included in the holiday feasts because the Chinese character for “fish” (鱼) reads the same as the character for the word “Plenty” (充) so eating fish at the New Year dinner symbolizes “Niannian Youyo” which translates to “plenty of wealth every year.”
One of the most common ways to prepare fish for the Lunar New Year is a “Steamed Prosperity Fish”. You can try this traditional recipe with our Wild Alaska Cod or Wild Pacific Halibut. Other preparation methods include a Steamed Black Cod, Chinese Style Oven Baked Fish, Glazed Fish with Greens, and Sticky Salmon with Greens.
We love the tradition of eating one fish on New Year's Eve (February 9th) and one on New Year's Day (February 10th) as it symbolizes "a wish for a surplus year-after-year."
Other traditional foods include Laba Congee, a dish made of rice, beans, peanuts, dried fruit, lotus seeds, nuts, and sugar, and Nian Gao, a sweet, sticky rice cake or Tang Yuan, a cake made of rice flour and filled with bean or nut powder.
If you celebrate Chinese New Year or are inspired to this year, make sure to include Premier Catch in your New Year’s Eve feast and share your recipes with us on social media @premiercatch or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
年年有余 (Niánnián yǒu yú /nyen-nyen yo yoo/): May you always have more than you need!