Experiences - Asia

Spring Festival Food – Yu (Fish)

Spring Festival Food or Family Reunion are terms that denote the time for delicious dumplings, fish, spring roll, New Year Cake, Hot Pot and much more. However, these are not foods associated with the New Year only, but also a symbol of Chinese food culture. Every dish has its background deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Different kinds of food have different meanings, which express people’s good wishes for a new year. A very famous dish of the lot is the Spring Festival Food – Yu.

Yu (Fish)

Spring Festival Food

Image Courtesy: Alpha used under the Creative Commons Licence

Fish such as braised Pomfret and Steamed Perch are an indispensable dish on the reunion dinner, because Chinese people give it several kinds of meanings. Fish has its Chinese pronunciation ‘Yu’, which means having more than just a basic need each year. In southern China, some people just eat the middle part of the fish on the New Year’s Eve, leaving the head and tail for the next day to symbolize completeness. It is also exchanged as a present between relatives and friends during the Chinese New Year.

It is particularly important that when fish is placed on the dining table, its head must be towards the elders, as a sign of respect. It is also important that the fish is served whole with head and tail intact as this symbolises that the coming year will also be complete, or whole.

In Chinese, there is a blessing speech as ‘Nian Nian You Yu’, which translates to ‘May you have surpluses and bountiful harvests every year.’ This also sounds like “May you have fish every year”!

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