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Food Symbolism


InChina, foods are given particular meanings, so that a type of food can only be eaten by some specific individuals in certain occasion, or must be eaten in specific occasion.

Usually, an honored guest will be served a snapper's head or shell to hail him and show warm welcome in some districts.

Noodles are the symbol of longevity in Chinese culture. They are as much a part of Chinese birthday celebration as a birthday cake with lit candles is in many countries, so that youngsters or seniors all will have a bowl of Long Life Noodle in the expectation of a healthy life. Since noodles do symbolize long life, it is considered very unlucky to cut up a strand.

Eggs hold a special symbolic significance in many cultures, andChinais no exception. The Chinese believe eggs symbolize fertility. After a baby is born, parents may hold a "red egg and ginger party", where they serve round hard-boiled eggs to announce the birth. (InCentral China, the number of eggs presented depends on the sex of the child: An even number, usually six or eight Red Boiled Eggs with a black point dotted on one end will be delivered for a boy and an odd number, usually five or seven without black point for a girl). Egg rolls or spring rolls resemble the shape of a gold bar, and thus are often served on the New Year as a symbol of wealth and prosperity in the coming year.

Fish also play a large role in festive celebrations. The Chinese word for fish "Yu" sounds like the homophonic words both for wish and abundance. As a result, on New Year's Eve it is customary to serve a fish for dinner, symbolizing the wish for accumulations of prosperity and wealth in the coming year. In addition, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year. 

Ducks represent fidelity in Chinese culture. If you are ever invited to a Chinese wedding banquet, don't be surprised to spot a mouthwatering platter of Peking duck on the banquet table. Also, red dishes are featured at weddings as red is the color of happiness. (You may find them served at New Year's banquets for the same reason.)

Chicken forms part of the symbolism of the dragon and phoenix in Chinese culture. At a Chinese wedding, chicken's feet, referred to as phoenix feet, are often served with dragon foods such as lobster. Chicken is also popular at Chinese New Year, symbolizing a good marriage and the coming together of families, and serving the bird whole emphasizes family unity.

Seeds -- lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, etc -- represent bearing many children in Chinese culture. Visit an Asian bakery during the Chinese New Year, and you're likely to find a wide assortment of snacks with different types of seeds in them.

There are other foods, snacks and fruits which symbolize good wishes under special circumstances, including dried bean curd, black moss seaweed, peanuts, pomelos and oranges.

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