The first day of the Lunar New Year is “the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth.”Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the new year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them
On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs
The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law.
The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits families and friends on the fifth day because it will bring both parties bad luck.
On the sixth to the 10th day, the Chinese visit their relatives and friends freely. They also visit the temples to pray for good fortune and health.
The seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. These farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion. The seventh day is also considered the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success.
On the eighth day the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner, and at midnight they pray to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven
The ninth day is to make offerings to the Jade Emperor.
The 10th through the 12th are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner.
On the 13th day after so much rich food, you should have simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) to cleanse the system.
The 14th day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is to be held on the 15th night.
Traditional New Year Foods
Probably more food is consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year. Vast amounts of traditional food is prepared for family and friends, as well as those close to us who have died
On New Year’s Day, the Chinese family will eat a vegetarian dish called jai. Although the various ingredients in jai are root vegetables or fibrous vegetables, many people attribute various superstitious aspects to them:
- Lotus seed – signify having many male offspring
- Ginkgo nut – represents silver ingots
- Black moss seaweed – is a homonym for exceeding in wealth
- Dried bean curd is another homonym for fulfilment of wealth and happiness
- Bamboo shoots – is a term which sounds like “wishing that everything would be well”
- Fresh bean curd or tofu is not included as it is white and unlucky for New Year as the colour signifies death and misfortune.
Other foods include a whole fish, to represent togetherness and abundance, and a chicken for prosperity. The chicken must be presented with a head, tail and feet to symbolise completeness. Noodles should be uncut, as they represent long life.
In south China, the favourite and most typical dishes were nian gao, sweet steamed glutinous rice pudding and zong zi (glutinous rice wrapped up in reed leaves), another popular delicacy.
In the north, steamed-wheat bread (man tou) and small meat dumplings were the preferred food. The tremendous amount of food prepared at this time was meant to symbolise abundance and wealth for the household.