Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is the most important of all traditional Chinese festivals and celebrated by every Chinese community worldwide. It is a time for family reunion and to wish each other happiness, good health, peace and prosperity. Each year is symbolised by an animal zodiac sign, in 12-year cycles, in the order of Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

The celebration starts a few days before the New Year and ends on the 15th day (the Lantern Festival). During the festive season,windows and doors are decorated with red scrolls (shown below right). Chinese scrolls

People wear new clothes to signify the New Year, usually in red because it is believed to be a colour of good luck, joy and prosperity. Red packets with money are given to children and young people by married and older adults, while small gifts, usually food or sweets, are given to friends. Traditionally, red lanterns are displayed, with lion dances and firecrackers to drive away evil spirits and symbolise joy for the New Year.

Chinese New Year is a time for gatherings of family and friends and these often based around meals. Dishes with names which symbolise good luck and fortune are eaten. For example, the pronunciation of ‘fish’ is similar to ‘abundance

’ in Chinese; therefore, eating fish is seen to bring about abundance in the coming year. Other traditional dishes include black moss with dried oysters, often accompanied with lettuce, which altogether means ‘growing business and plentiful fortune’. Tangerines sound like ‘fortune’ in Chinese and are often eaten or displayed. Furthermore, ‘sweet boxes’ called ‘boxes of completeness’ are placed at home for family and friends to symbolise a sweet new year. These contain melon seeds (for wealth) and sugared lotus seeds (for fertility) as well as sweets and chocolate coins for joy and prosperity. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year, and glutinous rice balls are eaten to signify family unity.



To enjoy healthier Chinese cuisine:


Go for… Go easy on…
  • lots of vegetable dishes, e.g. stir-fried greens, beans or chop suey.

  • dishes which are boiled, grilled, steamed, poached or stir-fried to keep the fat content down, e.g. steamed fish or grilled tofu.

  • plain rice, congee (Chinese porridge), noodles or steamed buns.

  • desserts which have plenty of fruit e.g. orange segments or fresh fruit platter.

  • plenty of fluids, such as water or Chinese tea, to keep you well hydrated.

  • foods high in saturated fat, e.g. fatty cuts of meat, Chinese sausages, chicken skin.

  • battered foods, e.g. sweet and sour pork.

  • deep-fried foods, e.g. deep-fried dough balls, spring rolls and prawn crackers.

  • egg fried rice.

  • sauces high in salt e.g. soy sauce, oyster sauce, satay sauce, black bean sauce etc.

  • alcohol – drink sensibly.


If you are cooking at home, try spicing up your food with garlic, ginger, pepper, chilli, lemon juice or even vinegar! You can also choose sauces of lower salt varieties or use less.

恭喜發財! (pronounced as ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ in Mandarin or ‘Gong Hei Fat Choy’ in Cantonese, meaning Wishing you lots of fortune for the New Year)

Last reviewed 02/12/2013. Next review due 02/12/2016


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