Gong Xi Fa Cai – Chinese New Year Celebrations Part 2: Food


Every celebration has three main elements – Food, Fun and People, and Chinese New Year is no different. Food plays an important role in the CNY celebrations and the dishes selected are either on the basis of their appearance or the way they sound. Some foods such as fish, mandarin oranges and nian gao (a type of Chinese cake) are especially popular due to the auspicious significance attached to their name, which sound similar to words meaning luck, wealth, prosperity etc. Some if common dishes include fish (“yu” – abundance), black moss (“fa cai” – wealth), whole chicken (completeness) and long noodles (longevity).

The biggest event of any Chinese New Year’s Eve is the Reunion Dinner or the “tuan yuan fan” on the eve of CNY. Family members get together and have a big feast usually in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes dishes of meat and fish. The Chinese believe that having plenty of sumptuous food during the reunion dinner represents a good start to the New Year, and each dish symbolises the hopes and wishes that the family members have for each other.  Traditionally fish is included in the meal, but is not eaten completely. The remaining part is stored overnight, as the Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” sounds the same as “let there be fish every year.” The Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune, so it is also common to serve lettuce wraps filled with other lucky food.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to Nathaniel

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to Nathaniel

Another CNY tradition is to have “yusheng”, also known as “lou hei” or prosperity toss. Raw fish slices are served together with carrot and turnip strips, crackers and other ingredients. Each ingredient carries a meaning, for example: fish means “nian nian you yu” – abundance through the year, and crackers represent “man di huang jing” – floor full of gold. Oil and seasonings are poured over the dry ingredients in turn, and the tradition is to say a blessing that correlates to the ingredient that is being added.

Once everything is added, the toss begins! Everyone stands up and tosses the mixture together with chopsticks while saying auspicious wishes to each other. It’s usually an enthusiastic affair as the belief is that the height of the toss correlates to the height of the person’s growth of fortunes.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to BrokenSphere

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to BrokenSphere

On CNY itself, when families go around visiting friends and relatives, they bring gifts of mandarin and oranges as their Chinese names sound like “gold” and “wealth” representing good fortune. And at home, festive snacks and tidbits are laid out for everyone to enjoy. Treats like bak kwa, pineapple tarts, love letters and prawn rolls are especially popular!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to Terence Ong

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to Terence Ong

Chinese New Year is no time to be on a diet, with all the good food around! It’s a time for fun, food and meeting friends and family.

In Singapore Chinese New Year is celebrated with as much fervour. The whole city is decked up with lights and red hanging decorations.  Special food and treats for the CNY can be seen being sold all over the city. Buzzing with activity China Town is the not to be missed part of the city state. One can actually soak in the atmosphere here and feel the pulsating excitement of the celebrations.

If you’re planning a trip to Singapore for Chinese New Year, or planning to treat yourself to a relaxing staycation for the holidays, make Capri by Fraser your choice of accommodation!

Capri by Fraser


For those who are looking for dining options for CNY or Valentine’s Day, why not try our special festive set menus!


3 thoughts on “Gong Xi Fa Cai – Chinese New Year Celebrations Part 2: Food

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