What food do you eat on Lunar New Year?

What food do you eat on Lunar New Year?

2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, and with the dawn of a new year comes hope for what’s to come.

Because Lunar New Year is tied to the year’s first new moon, it starts anytime from mid-January to mid-February. This year, the holiday starts Jan. 22. Globally, around two billion people celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Like many celebrations, food plays a role of bringing people together for Lunar New Year, and depending on ethnicity and region, the symbols behind certain foods vary. Among them are:

  • Dumplings, representing family and prosperity
  • Long noodles, representing longevity  
  • Sticky rice, or glutinous rice, is often formed into balls to symbolize completeness as well as mimic rounded money
  • Fish, especially whole fish, represents surplus and abundance
  • Mandarin oranges and tangerines, which are believed to bring good luck and happiness.

Gannett’s Asian American Forward Employee Resource Group, which connects almost 140 Asian-American employees and allies across the company, wanted to highlight the many rich traditions across cultures. Read on to see how members celebrate the holiday.

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‘We always make 8 dishes’

This sweet soup comprised of black sesame with sesame paste infused glutinous rice balls (zi-ma-wu) is the favorite Lunar New Year dish of Martin Li, Client Advocacy Manager for Gannett based in Arizona.

Eating together on Lunar New Year is as much tradition as it is steeped in symbolism and superstitions. In Cantonese, the number 8 means “prosper/wealth,” so we make eight dishes.

Whenever I think of all those dishes, I know the main dish is always a steamed fish fully intact from head to fin. It’s amazing how a steamed fish with a couple ingredients like soy sauce and scallions can taste so delicious.

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