Fish - increase in prosperity
In Chinese, fish sounds like 'surplus'. Fish is a traditional Chinese New Year dish. Chinese people always like to have a surplus at the end of the year, because they think if they have managed to save something at the end of the year, then they can make more in the next year.
Steamed fish is one of the most famous Chinese New Year recipes. What fish should be chosen for the New Year dinner is based on auspicious homophonics.
Dumplings represent wealth because of their close appearance to Chinese gold ingots, which are oval, boat-shaped hunks of gold used as currency in imperial China. Families typically wrap their own dumplings and continue wrapping until midnight to signify leaving the old year behind. Some families will hide a coin in one of the dumplings, and whoever receives that dumpling is believed to have a prosperous year.
Glutinous Rice Balls (Tangyuan or Yuanxiao) - Family Reunion
Glutinous Rice Balls, aka Tangyuan and Yuanxiao, is a lucky food during the Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao Festival). However, in many places of Southern China, it is also a Chinese New Year food. Unlike dumplings, the dough of Tangyuan is made by glutinous rice powder with the stuffing such as bean paste, brown sugar and all kinds of fruits and nuts.
Spring Rolls - Wealth
Spring rolls get their name because they are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival. It is a dish especially popular in East China such as Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Fujian, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, etc.
Spring rolls are a Cantonese dim sum dish of cylindrical-shaped rolls filled with vegetables, meat, or something sweet. Fillings are wrapped in thin dough wrappers, then fried, when the spring rolls are given their golden-yellow color.
A whole chicken is usually served on to represent family togetherness. As chicken is high in protein, some believe that chicken during the New Year also represents rebirth. Like the fish, the chicken should be served in its entirety, with the head and feet intact. In some households, the chicken’s feet are reserved for the breadwinners of the family to help them grasp onto wealth. Traditionally, families will also offer chicken to deceased ancestors for otherworldly blessings and protection.
Following the circular concept, certain round fruits are eaten during Lunar New Year to encourage family unity. Oranges and tangerines are especially popular because their golden color is believed to attract wealth, while the word for orange 橙 (chéng) is a homophone for “success”. Another word for orange is 橘子 (júzi), which sounds similar to the word for good luck (吉 jí).