One of the main ingredients needed to properly welcome the Chinese New Year is food. The Chinese eat much more on New Year's Day than any other day of the year.
Among other things, the Chinese family will eat a vegetarian dish called JAI, which is made up mainly of root vegetables. Part of the reason for this stems from a variety of superstitions related to foods. As an example:
Looking for many sons? Be sure to include lotus seeds. Dried bean curd is your ticket to fulfillment of wealth and happiness and even more so if you add in black seaweed moss. But whatever you do, do not include tofu or fresh bean curd. Both of these are white and white signifies death and misfortune. Certainly not the way to start a New Year!
There is also significance in the way an item is presented at a meal. A whole fish is often served representing abundance and togetherness.
A chicken represents prosperity, but it can't be served in pieces, it must be served whole - and in it's entirety (head, tail, feet - everything!)
The longer a noodle, the better, since they represent long life. Cutting a noodle at a New Year's Dinner is very bad luck indeed.
Just as Southern dishes vary from Northern dishes in this country, so do they in China. In northern China small meat dumplings and steamed wheat bread are the treat of the day. Southern China prefers their special rice pudding and rice wrapped in reed leaves.
Crescent shaped puffs of dough (Yau Gwok) and Sesame Cookies (Jin Dui) both represent prosperity.
Click for some Chinese New Years Recipes
Each family will also put out a candy tray for themselves and their guests. Again, there is meaning behind each candy.
Lychee nuts will provide close family relationships, peanuts bring longevity and coconut inspires unity. Melon seeds are often dyed red to symbolize happiness and honesty whereas candy melons represent growth and health.
Pineapples, oranges and tangerines along with other bright colored fruits are also traditional Chinese New Year treats.
Dragons, fireworks at midnight, little red envelopes, brightly colored costumes - these are all part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. But undoubtedly food is one of the most important aspects - with the power to provide the Chinese family with a year of good fortune and health.