Chinese New Year is an exciting holiday that everyone can celebrate. As we welcome the Year of the Rooster, we remember the love and friendship of our families. We also wish our friends good luck for the coming year.
You have probably celebrated Chinese New Year since before you could walk or talk. But do you really know what our most important Chinese New Year customs and traditions really mean? Chinese New Year has a fascinating history going back thousands of years. Fully appreciating traditions like Lo Hei, Yusheng ingredients meaning, and more will help you really enjoy the entire Year of the Rooster. Here are some important traditions:
Eight Basic Chinese New Traditions You Should Know
Cleaning does not actually take place on New Year’s Day. Cleaning the house on New Year’s Day or during the first three days after the New Year will cause you to lose good luck. However, it is very important to clean the entire house before the beginning of the New Year. This is to get rid of the evil spirits from the last year.
Chinese New Year is a time to get rid of old things and buy new things. That is why many people buy new furniture and/or appliances before the New Year. Stores usually offer special deals and discounts during this time. Want to be the first to know when your grocery items go on promotion? Join our Giant Super Savers Club and receive the latest promotions straight to your mobile phone!
You must decorate your home or apartment before the beginning of the New Year. Red is the most important colour to use as it wards off the evil beast Nian. Be sure to hang a picture of the Chinese character, 福, which means fortune, on the main door of your home for good luck. Remember to display it upside down!
You can also make your own Chinese New Year lanterns and hang them around the house. Making lanterns is not difficult! Here are 20 types of decorations you can make using red envelopes, and 10 Rooster-themed Chinese New Year decorations.
Married couples give red envelopes to children, teens and young, unmarried family members. The red envelopes symbolise good luck and prosperity for the coming year. They are also a sign of an elder’s blessing. Bosses give their employees a bonus at this time in a red envelope. People living in an apartment building should give red envelopes to the doorman.
The amount of money given should always be even. It is also important to avoid the number four when placing money inside the envelopes. This is because the word “four” in Chinese sounds the same as the word for “death”.
The exact amount of money given depends on whom the envelope is given to. You can buy different envelopes and use certain ones for certain amounts. Pre-packing the envelopes and keeping a few with you at all times ensures you will always have a red envelope for someone who needs one.
These days, virtual red envelopes are often sent via an app. However, not everyone has New Year apps on their phone. Be prepared to buy and stuff an actual red envelope for important members of your family.
When you receive a red envelope, thank the person who gave it to you. Do not open the envelope until you are home alone.
Shou Sui is an important tradition. You can stay up until just past midnight or for the entire night. Shou Sui scares away the evil Nian should it try to enter the home at the beginning of the New Year.
Red is a lucky colour. It also brings good fortune. Wear red during Chinese New Year to have a good Year of the Rooster and keep evil spirits at bay.
Chinese New Year is a time to honour the elders. On the first day of the New Year, it is the custom for families to visit the oldest members of their extended families. Visits typically last until evening. Many times night events are also held in honour of senior members of the family.
The second day of the New Year is the time when married women visit their parents, relatives and close friends. The tradition arose at a time when women did not have the opportunity to visit their birth families on a regular basis. Being able to see birth parents and relatives after many months was always considered a special occasion. However, it should be no less so even for modern women who may be able to see their birth family regularly.
New Year’s Eve Dinner
The New Year’s Eve dinner is auspicious because it signifies the reunion of the family. Typical foods eaten on this day are whole fish, noodles, raw fish salad, egg rolls, dumplings, Mandarin oranges, rice cakes, and sea moss. The meal should be prepared and eaten at home.
Each of these foods has its own special meaning. Whole fish symbolises abundance. Noodles symbolise longevity. Mandarin oranges bring sweetness, good luck and wealth. Rice cakes symbolise prosperity and the ability to soar to new heights in the coming year. Sea moss and dumplings symbolise wealth. Egg rolls are said to bring both wealth and fertility.
Raw fish salad is more commonly known as Yusheng and it plays a very important part in any Chinese New Year meal. It is the centrepiece of an entire ceremony designed to bring in good luck, prosperity, happiness, the accomplishment of goals and much more. The following is an explanation of various Yusheng ingredients’ meaning, traditions surrounding this important dish and an easy and affordable Yusheng recipe you can make at home.
Typical Yusheng Ingredients
The exact Chinese New Year raw fish salad ingredients vary depending on what recipe you use. However, these are the ones that are almost always included:
- Fresh salmon or tuna sashimi (buy sliced fish to avoid the hassle of having to cut it)
- White radish
- Pickled ginger
- Chinese parsley
- Roasted & unsalted peanuts
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Five spice powder
- Crackers (any type of cracker is suitable but gold crackers are the ones said to bring the best luck)
- Plum sauce
- Lemon juice
- Peanut or corn oil
- Sesame oil
Yusheng Ingredients’ Meaning
Every single ones of the Yusheng ingredients has a special meaning. As you add each ingredient to the plate, be sure to say the accompanying phrase or phrases.
- The raw fish symbolises abundance and prosperity. The phrases that accompany this ingredient are “Nian Nian You Yu” or “You Yu You Sheng”. They mean “Abundance throughout the year”. Not surprising, the sliced fish is considered to be one of the most important ingredients in the raw fish salad.
- The pomelo is added to the salad right after the fish to add luck. However, it is an optional ingredient. If it is placed in the salad, you can say “Da Ji Da Li” which means, “Good luck and smooth sailing”.
- The pepper and cinnamon powder are added in next. They both signify a wish for wealth. Like the pomelo they are optional ingredients. The accompanying phrase for pepper and cinnamon powder is, “Zhao Cai Jin Bao”. This means, “Attract wealth and treasures”.
- Oil should be drizzled onto the salad in a circular motion. This is to symbolise that money is coming in from all directions. There are two phrases that accompany this ingredient. “Yi Ben Wan Li” means, “Make 10, 000 times of profit with your capital”. “Cai Yuan Guang Jin” means, “Countless sources of wealth”. In some cases, oil is added to the dressing rather than poured directly onto the salad.
- Carrots represent good luck. The phrase to go with this ingredient is “Hong Yun Dang Tou” which means, “Good luck is approaching”.
- Green radish symbolises eternal youth. The appropriate phrase for it is, “Qing Chun Chang Zhu” which means, “Forever young”. You will want to add this ingredient if you are serving Yusheng to your elders. However, you can leave it out if you so desire.
- White radish is meant to bring about good business opportunities. The two phrases that go with this ingredient are “Feng Sheng Shui Qi” and “Bu Bu Gao Sheng”. They mean “Reaching a higher level with each step” and “Progress at a fast pace”, respectively.
- Crushed peanuts are sprinkled onto the dish to symbolise that your household will be filled with valuable possessions. As the accompanying phrase goes, “Jin Yin Man Wu”. This means “Household filled with gold and silver”.
- Sesame seeds are added to the salad right after the crushed peanuts have been sprinkled on top. The sesame seeds represent the hope that your business will flourish in the coming year. The accompanying phrase is “Sheng Yi Xing Long” which means, “Prosperity for the business”.
- Golden crackers symbolise great wealth. Some Chinese New Year raw fish recipe plans add whole wheat crackers instead of gold ones. This is to make the salad healthier than it already is. However, if you want a traditional salad, golden crackers are a must. So is the accompanying phrase, “Bian Di Huang Jin.” This phrase means, “Floor full of gold”. You could say the same phrase with the whole wheat crackers but it isn’t the same. This is because whole wheat crackers are usually brown, not gold.
- Plum Sauce, like the oil, is poured all over the dish instead of just one spot. This sauce represents the desire for stronger ties with family and friends. The accompanying phrase is, “Tian Tian Mi Mi” which means, “Sweet and loving relationships”.
How to Eat Yusheng
To eat Yusheng, everyone at the dining table should toss the salad for good luck. This ceremony is called Lo Hei. All you need to do is grab a pair of chopsticks and begin tossing. As you toss, chant the above mentioned phrases. Be sure to push the ingredients to the centre rather than push them outward. That’s because pushing inwards means that you are pushing on the good luck of everyone at the table.
The phrases don’t need to be said in a particular order. Also, there is no particular order for who should say something first. You simply yell at the same time as you toss the salad. However, tradition does state that each toss should be higher than the last one. This is to symbolise that prosperity and good luck keeps increasing rather than decreasing or remaining the same.
After all the ingredients are added, they are traditionally tossed together 7 times with shouts of “Lo Hei!” and other auspicious wishes. When you are done with the Lo Hei, your Yusheng will probably look like the image below, but that’s OK. If you are the one preparing the salad, be sure to make enough to not only satisfy your guests but also cover the table. There should also be at least a little Yusheng left over to signify abundance.
Yusheng phrases that you can use while tossing include:
- Happy New Year! Xīn Nián Hǎo
- Wishing you happiness and prosperity – Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái
- Joy is in the air! – Xǐ Qì Yáng Yáng
- Congratulations to you for your wealth/ May you be rich and wealthy – Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái
- Wish you good health and vitality – Lóng Mǎ Jīng Shén
- May your business thrive and flourish – Shēng Yi Xīng Lóng
- May wealth roll in, in waves upon waves – Cái Yuán Gǔn Gǔn
- Wish you smooth progress at work – Gōng Zuò Shùn Lì
- Wish you swift success – Mǎ Dào Chéng Gōng
- Steady progress with every step – Bù Bù Gāo Shēng
- May your success be glorious and prominent – Dà Zhǎn Hóng Tú
- May your wealth and prestige bloom – Huā Kāi Fù Guì
- May all your wishes come true – Wàn Shì Rú Yì
- May all your wishes come true – Xīn Xiǎng Shì Chéng
- May everything turn out even better than what you wished for – Wàn Shì Shèng Yì
- May the star of fortune shine brightly upon you – Jí Xīng Gāo Zhào
- May you have more than enough good fortune – Jí Qìng Yǒu Yú
- May your fame be known across the four seas – Míng Yáng Sì Hǎi
- May your love be forever blissful – Xìng Fú Yǒng Yuǎn
- Wish you good health – Shēn Tǐ Jiàn Kāng
- May you be blessed with good fortune and longevity – Fú Shòu Shuāng Quán
- May you be strong and healthy – Shēn Zhuàng Lì Jiàn
- Keep smiling always – Xiào Kǒu Cháng Kāi
- May peace and safety be with you, year after year – Suì Suì Píng Ān
- May your family be united and harmonious – Tuán Tuán Yuán Yuán
- Wish your family peace and safety – Gé Jiā Píng Ān
- Happiness for your whole family! – Hé Jiā Huān Lè
You don’t have to stick to these phrases even though they offer plenty of variety. You can say just about anything you want as long as it is auspicious and represents something you truly want for the New Year. Do you want a baby, a promotion, to meet the love of your life or to move to another country? There is no better time to express your wishes for the New Year of the Rooster than during the Lo Hei Chinese New Year ceremony.
Chinese Yusheng is not only served as part of the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner. It is also served on the seventh day after the New Year. This day is known as Renri. It means Human Day and is said to be the seventh day of creation. Chinese tradition has it that the world and everything in it was made by the goddess Nüwa and that humans were the last creation.
Chinese New Year Yusheng Recipe
If you want to make your own Yusheng, you can find almost all the Yusheng ingredients you need for this dish at your local Giant Store or the Giant website. The store offers the tastiest ingredients in town and good prices as well. Why buy an expensive Yusheng from a local restaurant or hotel when you can enjoy making your own for a fraction of the price?
Preparation Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 6 to 8 people
Raw Fish Salad Ingredients:
- 100g fresh salmon
- 2 cups white radish
- 2 cups carrot
- 1 cup cucumber
- 1 red capsicum
- 1 tsp. pickled ginger
- 4 sprigs of fresh Chinese parsley
- ¼ cup of chopped peanuts
- ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp. Chinese five spice powder
- ¼ cup crackers
Raw Fish Salad Dressing Ingredients:
- ½ cup of plum sauce
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 tsp corn oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- ⅛ tsp Chinese five spice powder
- Mix all the ingredients for the dressing. Set the dressing aside when you are done.
- Arrange the salmon slices at the centre of your platter. The platter should be round because the circular shape symbolises fullness.
- Peel the carrots and slice all the vegetables finely using a spiral vegetable slicer, julienne slicer or mandoline. All the vegetables should be long, thin strips. If you need to keep the vegetables fresh for some time before serving the salad, soak them in ice water after shredding them. Dry them using a vegetable spin dryer. Shortly before serving the salad, place each shredded vegetable in its own round pile around the salmon slices.
- Peel the ginger and shred it in thin strips. Next, crush the peanuts and the crackers. Finally, cut the parsley. Sprinkle the parsley, ginger, peanuts, crackers, and sesame seeds over the vegetables.
- Pour the dressing on evenly. Your Yusheng is now ready to be tossed and eaten!
Chinese New Year is more than just a holiday. It is a time to come together and appreciate all that the New Year will bring. It is also rich in important traditions that are meant to be not only observed but also passed on to children and grandchildren.
Each tradition is important if you want to have a lucky Chinese New Year. You will want to clean the house beforehand, set out auspicious decorations, and dress appropriately.
Lo Hei Chinese New Year is more than just another tradition. No two Lo Hei ceremonies will ever be totally alike. This is because each group has different desires and wishes to express for the New Year. Your family members’ wishes and aspirations for the new year will change as the years go. Because of this, each Chinese New Year Lo Hei will bring with it its own unique memories.
Preparing your own Yusheng makes the Lo Hei Chinese New Year ceremony even more meaningful than it already is. However, remember that Chinese New Year is not about preparing perfect food. It is about focusing on family and friends. Enjoy the company of your loved ones on this special day and look forward to all that the wonderful things that the New Year of the Rooster is sure to bring your way!
Bonus: Get first dibs on the latest promotions on all ingredients when you join our Giant Super Savers Club now!