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During the Chinese New Year period, every family will prepare various snacks and fruits, both for the family and visitors. Placed in candy dishes, these Chinese New Year snacks and fruits are picked for their auspicious symbols of good wishes for a new year.
China Highlights will introduce you to some top Chinese New Year snacks that you might find in every family home when you pay a New Year visit.
Red is a lucky color in China, meaning booming and prosperous. Dates (枣 zǎo) have the same pronunciation as "early" (早 zǎo), meaning a head start. That is why red dates are always eaten on jubilant occasions, including festivals, wedding ceremonies, housewarming parties, and a baby's completion of its first month of life.
As a top Chinese New Year snack, red dates are served as a dried fruit. You can eat them with your fingers or cut them into slices to make tea.
Click to see Lucky Colors in Chinese Culture.
Peanuts, also named "longevity nuts", symbolize vitality, longevity, riches, and honor. As a Chinese New Year snack, peanuts are always served unshelled.
There are many ways to cook peanuts, such as boiling them with water or salt water and stir-frying them. Peanuts are a nourishing food and can be eaten raw. Chinese believe that eating them raw is better.
Dried longans have another name in China: guìyuán (桂圆 /hway-ywen/), which sounds like 'expensive' and 'round' (贵圆) — roundness symbolizes reunion in China. So it is a top Chinese New Year snack due to its implied meanings.
Traditional Chinese medicine says that eating dried longans can nourish one's vitality. Usually dried longans are served unshelled. You can eat the flesh directly or make tea with it.
Sunflower seeds to Chinese people are what popcorn is to moviegoers. The Chinese character for seed (子) also means child(ren), so sunflower seeds symbolize having many sons and grandsons in traditional Chinese culture.
Eating sunflower seeds is a great way to kill time for Chinese people, and they are a necessary snack for the Chinese New Year. Unshelled sunflower seeds can be eaten both raw and stir-fried.
Eating sunflower seeds, chatting, and watching television are quite common for a New Year gathering. As well as sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds and pumpkin seeds are also eaten as seed snacks.
Sweets symbolize a sweet life. They are indispensable snacks for the Chinese New Year. Eating sweets represents sweet occurrences or getting a sweet start in the coming year.
Except for various kinds of loose sweets, some sweets are packed in golden boxes shaped in auspicious figures, such as a yuanbao (a shoe-shaped gold ingot that was used as a type of currency in ancient China, which symbolizes wealth), a fortune cat, and the God of Wealth. These are nice choices when considering Chinese New Year gifts.
The Chinese name for steamed New Year cake is niángāo (年糕), homophonic for "year higher" (年高). Eating this sweet or savory, chewy cake represents having prosperity and promotions year after year.
As a top Chinese New Year snack, steamed New Year cake is also a nice gift, especially to a family with a member who is about to enter a higher school or get a promotion.
The cake will become stale and hard after a few days, but do not worry, just slice it up in thumb-width slices and steam it until soft. You can also fry it on both sides until it is brown and crispy. The latter is highly recommended.
In many places, glutinous rice dumplings (zongzi) are also a top Chinese New Year snack. Glutinous rice dumplings are made from sticky rice and other ingredients, such as beans, peanuts, Chinese chestnuts, and pork, wrapped with bamboo leaves.
Eating glutinous rice dumplings symbolizes a bumper grain harvest in the coming year. If the glutinous rice dumplings are cold and hard, you can steam them until they are soft, or peel off the skin and pan fry them until they are brown and crispy on both sides.