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11 Traditional Lunar New Year Foods to Eat in 2021

Redbook Logo By Samantha Vincenty of Redbook | Slide 1 of 12: The Lunar New Year—celebrated in several Asian countries, and best known for the Chinese New Year celebration that's also called Spring Festival—is a time to bring families together. That's one reason why the"reunion dinner," eaten by Chinese and Vietnamese families on the night before, is such an important New Year's tradition>>>P. Putting an ample variety of food on the table is a must, too."The idea of an elaborate reunion dinner is that you have to include all sorts of stuff," says Kian Lam Kho, private chef and author of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking>>>P."You have to have fish, you have to have chicken or duck, or pork. It's to indicate that you're so successful during the year—that you can afford all of this, and carry it over to the new year." As with holidays like Three Kings Day>>>P, Easter Sunday>>>P, and Diwali>>>P, the foods traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year hold a symbolic (not to mention delicious) place within the festivities. Foods like fish, fruit, and dumplings are more than mere snacks; they're symbols of luck and prosperity, and eating them is thought to invite both into your life in the days to come. There's actually several layers of symbolism at play when it comes to"lucky" Lunar New Year dishes: what the food's name sounds like when said aloud, how it's prepared, and the way it's served can imbue a meal with extra meaning, making it all the more special. It's also important to know that because China is one of the largest countries in the world, the ingredients and preparation of any given dish is native to a specific region, even if Chinatowns across the United States have popularized them through what Americans think of as Chinese food."Every area of China has different customs," says Kho. That means that a unified tradition that everyone celebrates is rare, Kho says, but"there are exceptions." And just as Christmas traditions vary by each family who celebrates, every Lunar New Year celebration is unique—which means you may not all of these dishes represented on every family or restaurant's table, but you'll likely encounter several. Here are 11 examples of traditional Lunar New Year food for 2021, and what they represent.

The Lunar New Year—celebrated in several Asian countries, and best known for the Chinese New Year celebration that's also called Spring Festival—is a time to bring families together. That's one reason why the"reunion dinner," eaten by Chinese and Vietnamese families on the night before, is such an important New Year's tradition>>>P. Putting an ample variety of food on the table is a must, too.

"The idea of an elaborate reunion dinner is that you have to include all sorts of stuff," says Kian Lam Kho, private chef and author of Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking>>>P."You have to have fish, you have to have chicken or duck, or pork. It's to indicate that you're so successful during the year—that you can afford all of this, and carry it over to the new year." As with holidays like Three Kings Day>>>P, Easter Sunday>>>P, and Diwali>>>P, the foods traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year hold a symbolic (not to mention delicious) place within the festivities. Foods like fish, fruit, and dumplings are more than mere snacks; they're symbols of luck and prosperity, and eating them is thought to invite both into your life in the days to come.

There's actually several layers of symbolism at play when it comes to"lucky" Lunar New Year dishes: what the food's name sounds like when said aloud, how it's prepared, and the way it's served can imbue a meal with extra meaning, making it all the more special. It's also important to know that because China is one of the largest countries in the world, the ingredients and preparation of any given dish is native to a specific region, even if Chinatowns across the United States have popularized them through what Americans think of as Chinese food."Every area of China has different customs," says Kho. That means that a unified tradition that everyone celebrates is rare, Kho says, but"there are exceptions." And just as Christmas traditions vary by each family who celebrates, every Lunar New Year celebration is unique—which means you may not all of these dishes represented on every family or restaurant's table, but you'll likely encounter several. Here are 11 examples of traditional Lunar New Year food for 2021, and what they represent.

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