China is one of the oldest countries in the world and has a long and splendid history. Food has been a key component of Chinese culture. Many festivals and special occasions throughout the year are marked with several different delicious types of Chinese food. What are the meanings behind these foods? Let’s find out.
Where Did the Symbolism Come From?
The symbolism behind these foods has been in place for at least 2,000 years. Various superstitions and traditions formed around these foods as invocations or celebrations of blessings. Food has power, and the power of food, especially Chinese food, goes beyond how nourishing and delectable they are; pronunciation, shape, colors, and legends all play a part in giving these foods their symbolic power.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. During this most important festival of the year, the Chinese people wish each good fortune and blessings for the coming year, so the foods associated with this festival reflect that idea.
“Year Cake”: Also called niangao or nyen-gao, the year cake literally means increasing prosperity, because the name sounds like “year high” or “yearly increase.”
Dumplings: The dumplings represent wealth because they are shaped like ingots of gold or silver.
Candy: Candy is another tasty treat associated with CNY; their sweetness is supposed to represent wishes for a rich life full of sweetness.
The Lantern Festival marks the first full moon of the year. At least, it does according to the Chinese calendar. Both the full moon and the food for this festival had to do with family reunions. Accordingly, sweet and sticky rice balls dunked in soup represent “togetherness and reunion.”
Sister’s Meal Festival
The Sister’s Meal Festival is a smaller celebration that may not be as well-known here in America. It is a celebration held by the Miao people, on the fifteenth day of the third month according to Chinese lunar calendar. The five-color rice that is the centerpiece of this festival represents colorful lives and unity.
Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Festival commemorates Qu Yuan, a famous poet from ancient China. Glutinous rice dumplings are tied to this festival, and these dumplings are usually wrapped in leaves of bamboo or reeds.
After Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important celebration of the year. It’s a time for family, so the special foods for this festival reflect that fact. Mooncakes are round, shaped like the harvest moon. They represent family unity. Pomeloes also stand for family unity, as well as abundance.
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