It might have been 2 years since the last family reunion. Do you still remember your lucky and “pantang” foods?
Chinese New Year’s is around the corner and apart from the ang pows and family reunion, the scrumptious home cooked food and delectable cookies are one of the many things we look forward to the most during CNY.
Growing up in Malaysia celebrating CNY at home or with your Chinese friends, you might have heard your Ah Ma, Ah Gong or friend mentioned certain CNY taboos such as to avoid sweeping the floor on the first day of CNY to avoid sweeping the luck away or to leave the lights on during the night of CNY to scare away spirits of misfortune which might compromise the luck and fortune of the New Year.
Food too, is very symbolic to the Chinese when it comes to the New Year. Some foods are deemed auspicious while others… not so. With almost 2 years of celebrating CNY away from our hometowns due to the Covid-19 MCOs, superstitions about “pantang” foods get forgotten, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. Here’s a reminder of how not to eat your way to a bad year.
The “Pantang” Foods
Back in the day, workers travelled far from home to work and would often carry along a blanket of personal belongings. Hence, when a worker is fired, he’d have to roll (yow) up his blanket, pack his belongings and go home. Hence, serving stir fried squid symbolizes being fired in the coming year so it’s best to avoid this dish during CNY to keep our rice bowl
Pear is pronounced as 梨 (lí) in Chinese, which bears the same pronunciation as 离(lí), meaning parting ways. Chinese New Year is all about reunion and happiness., Hence, pears are deemed inauspicious to be eaten on a new year. But make sure you still keep 3 ft apart! We surely don’t want to be kept apart in-home quarantines due to the virus and not the pears this time!
Porridge, which is pronounced as 粥 (zhōu) in Chinese, symbolize poverty, hence porridge is avoided during CNY to avoid starting the New Year “poor” as this is a bad omen. Well for our wallet’s sake, it’s better to be safe than sorry right?
Now that you know what to avoid during CNY, here’s a list of what you should have!
The Lucky Food
Mandarin oranges is pronounced as ‘Kam’ in Cantonese, which means gold! Hence mandarins are widely consumed and used as decoration during CNY as it’s deemed an auspicious fruit that will bring good fortune to those around!
Apart from the usual Gong Xi Fa Cai, we also wish people 年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú) on CNY. While direct translation means “year year got fish”, this expression wishes an abundance and surplus every year. The wording 余 (yú) bears the same pronunciation as 鱼 (yú), which means fish. Hence, fish is an auspicious and luck filled food to be eaten during CNY for an abundance of all things good in the year to come.
Prawns are pronounced as “Har” in Cantonese, which sounds like a laugh! So it’s commonly believed that by eating prawns during CNY, the year ahead will be filled with joy and laughter. Sounds like a funny way to get lucky, giving you a reason to laugh all the more
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