12 Lucky Foods for Your Chinese New Year Feast

Updated: May 03, 2024

Chinese New Year foods are said to help bring luck and good fortune. Here's a guide to their symbolic meanings.

Chinese restaurant Chinese New Years celebration dinner meal with multiple courses and dishes served at the table. Lo Mein. Noodles. Beef Dish. Rice. Classic family style meal.REBECCAFONDREN/GETTY IMAGES

You may think “Lunar New Year” and “Chinese New Year” refer to the same event. That’s not the case! The Lunar New Year celebration in South Korea or Vietnam looks different than a celebration of the Lunar New Year in China. The holidays take place on different dates, too.

In 2024, China begins to celebrate its Lunar New Year on February 10. The holiday continues for two weeks, culminating in the Lantern Festival on February 24. Each year, the calendar aligns with an animal in the Chinese zodiac. 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, an animal that embodies good luck, strength and health.

Like any holiday, Lunar New Year has many traditions. In China, dragon dances and fireworks displays are essential parts of the celebration—as is food.

Homemade Pork Dumplings
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Dumplings

According to ancient legend, the number of dumplings you eat during the Chinese New Year predicts the amount of money you’ll make in the upcoming year. The more, the better! While pork is the most common dumpling filling, you can also opt for shrimp, chicken or vegetables.

chinese longevity noodles
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Longevity Noodles

Be sure to serve these if you host a Chinese New Year party! Known as changshou mian, which means “long-life noodles,” these noodles are up to two feet long. According to Chinese tradition, the longer the noodle, the luckier you’ll be. Just be careful not to accidentally break one while you’re cooking—that’s bad luck because it represents a life cut short.

Tray of Togetherness with a variety of dried fruits and nuts for a Chinese new year celebration
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Tray of Togetherness

Often divided into six or eight compartments (the number six symbolizes luck, while eight symbolizes fortune), the round Tray of Togetherness represents peace and family harmony. Fill the tray with an assortment of small treats like dried fruit, nuts or candy. You could also include these homemade almond ginger cookies.

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Spring Rolls

Resembling bars of gold, spring rolls bring wealth and good fortune. You can stuff these deep-fried rolls with various fillings, including pork, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, cabbage and assorted other veggies. The difference between egg rolls and spring rolls is that egg rolls have a wonton or yeast dough wrapper, while spring rolls have a thinner wrapping.

oranges for good luck on chinese new year
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Oranges and Other Citrus

Oranges, kumquats, tangerines and pomelos are common Chinese New Year food gifts because they’re believed to bring good luck and happiness. The Chinese words for orange and tangerine closely resemble the words for luck and wealth. The gold color also symbolizes prosperity. Far from family for this year’s celebrations? You can still send a gift of oranges.

Tang Yuan(sweet dumplings balls), a traditional cuisine for Mid-autumn, Dongzhi (winter solstice ) and Chinese new year with plum flower and tea on red background.
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Sweet Rice Balls

These sweet rice balls are a common Chinese New Year food for good reason: The round shape signifies unity. These gooey balls also represent harmony and family togetherness because their name (tang yuan) sounds like the word “reunion” in Chinese (tuan yuan).

Chinese fish dish
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Fish

In Mandarin, the pronunciation of the words for fish and abundance sounds similar. To ensure success in the coming year, steamed fish is a regular dish on the Lunar New Year table. Particularly, crucian carp and mud carp are homophones for good luck and good fortune.

year cake
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Year Cake

The Chinese word for this cake—nian gao—is pronounced exactly like the word for “higher year,” which makes this dessert lucky. The sticky rice flour cake was originally used as an offering during ritual ceremonies. Now, people eat nian gao on the first day of the year to bring health, wealth and happiness.

Eight Delicacies Rice
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Eight Treasure Rice

This traditional dish is made with sticky rice and adorned with eight “treasures”—a variety of seeds, nuts and fruits like plums, jackfruit and raisins. Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture and eating desserts on this holiday represents sweetness for the year ahead.

Kue Mangkok (Chinese fa gao) known as fortune cake, usually for Chinese New Year.
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Prosperity Cakes

These steamed rice flour cakes (fa gao) are known for their split tops. According to tradition, the more segments the top of your cake has, the luckier you’ll be in the new year. Fa gao translates to “prosperity cake,” so it’s no surprise that these treats are a popular Chinese New Year food.

Chinese Almond Cookies
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Almond Cookies

Chinese almond cookies are thought to bring financial luck into the new year. Their round shape resembles that of a coin which symbolizes wealth and good fortune.

Food to pay respect to the Chinese New Year.
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Whole Chicken

Serving an entire chicken (head and feet included) celebrates wholeness and prosperity in the new year. The Chinese word for chicken, , is a homophone for good luck and great wealth and also symbolizes unity.