The Lunar New Year, which falls on Friday, Feb. 16 in 2018, is a significant and deeply symbolic holiday for the Chinese — a celebration of family and community, but it's also an opportunity to make humble requests for good health, prosperity and success in the coming year.
It is, however, a list of six because the number six is symbolic. Since the number six in Chinese is a homophone of the word liú, which means "flow," it's believed the number is a harbinger of good luck and good fortune.
DUMPLINGS It's a symbol for prosperity and wealth, and legend has it that the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebration, the more money you'll make.
NOODLES (CHANGSHOU MIAN) The literal translation of changshou mian is "long-life noodles," and they're eaten on birthdays and on Chinese New Year as a wish for a long, happy and healthy life.
CURED MEAT (LAROU) Historically, during layue, the 12th lunar month, people made year-end animal sacrifices to the gods, and what was left needed to be saved and preserved.
RICE CAKES (NIAN GAO) Like most of the New Year food traditions, nian gao is believed to bring prosperity. Its pronunciation sounds like "year high" in Chinese, and that signifies a higher income, higher status, growth and the general promise of a more fruitful year. The term then correlates with the Chinese axiom "nian nian gao sheng," which translates to "may you reach higher and higher year after year."
WHOLE FISH Not only is a whole fish — head, tail, bones and all — an impressive sight for the dinner table, it's a sign of abundance.
GOOD FORTUNE FRUIT Lunar New Year always falls at the tail end of winter, which means the fruits that are available tend to be limited to those that thrive in colder weather, like oranges, tangerines and pomelos. They're usually given as gifts to bring the recipient good fortune throughout the coming year.