Midway through my seventh peanut puff, my little bro sprang a random question on me.
“Kor, what do these snacks signify?”
I stared at him, my mouth full of peanut and batter and my stomach full of tarts and love letters.
“Why do you want to know?”
I blinked, before sighing. Kids and their curiousity.
“You little troublemaker, come over here.”
Breaking into a bright-eyed smile, the child of no more than twenty-seven hopped over and sat cross-legged beside me.
“I’m ready,” he announced.
Downing my eighth peanut puff, I set aside my container of goodies with the utmost hesitance, before looking squarely into his eyes.
“And so, it all began with…”
The Different Meanings Behind 11 Popular CNY Snacks
1. Peanut Puffs
Lest you’re unaware, peanut puffs are more than just peanut and batter.
They are also auspicious Chinese New Year snacks, as peanut supposedly stands for health and longevity.
Apparently, it can also mean prosperity – a notion which is much desired by people during the festive season!
So the next time you see the Blackjack banker chewing on something, stop the game immediately and request that they open their mouth.
If it’s a peanut puff, the banker would have been guilty of cheating, as it’s pretty much a luck booster by this point.
2. Mandarin Oranges
To clarify, mandarin oranges are different from regular oranges.
Apart from being sweeter and easier to peel, they also carry an auspicious notion to their name.
According to AsiaOne, they are perceived as symbols of good fortune, and are frequently presented in pairs during Chinese New Year.
3. Love Letters
It’s no mere coincidence that these delicious eggy wafer biscuits share the same name as a particular romantic notion.
In the past, secret lovers would insert actual love letters into the wafers and send them to each other – in the process circumventing the suspicion of authorities and disapproval of family members.
Apparently, consuming these biscuits means that the lover’s words have been noted.
So the next time your crush sneaks a love letter biscuit to you in class, take note;
It may mean more than just a gift.
4. Bak Kwa
The colour of bak kwa just about gives away its significance to the Chinese New Year festivities.
It’s red, which is a lucky color, and it’s believed to signify a “robust future” as well. So when you get bak kwa or serve bak kwa to others, you want them to have a great, lucky and robust year ahead!
“But it’s sinful,” whimpers the health-conscious individual in your class.
Well, it’s a choice between a lucky year ahead, and minimal difference to your waistline in the day. So remember to take a few bites of this sinful, delectable and savory meat, because while those calories can be burned off… there won’t be a better time to collect your luck buff, so to speak.
5. Pineapple Tarts
Pineapple tarts may be delectable choices at any time of the year, but they appear to be particularly prevalent during Chinese New Year.
“Why?” you wonder.
Well, pineapple is actually known as “Ong-Lai” in dialect (Hokkien), and also means “fortune, come”. As such, pineapple tarts are believed to bring good luck and fortune for the new year when eaten and served in homes.
As for that sumptuous, unbelievable buttery taste? That’s just the icing on the cake.
6. Shrimp Rolls
In Chinese culture, shrimps are thought to represent happiness and good fortune, while shrimp rolls symbolise wealth as they vaguely resemble gold bars.
Hence, eating shrimp rolls is perceived to bring you wealth and happiness.
But then again, I doubt we’ll pass over these addictive snacks even if there was no auspicious meaning whatsoever.
As abalone is expensive, eating abalone during Chinese New Year is believed to bring you wealth throughout the year.
Also, abalone is called “bao yu” in Chinese, and “yu” also means abundance.
8. Nian Gao
This sticky cake has the same pronunciation as “high” in Chinese. Thus, by eating nian gao, we will soar to greater heights each year – in the process achieving more prosperity.
9. Cashew Nut Cookies
Shaped like the gold ingots of ancient Chinese history, this cookie is said to symbolize fortune and wealth when eaten during Chinese New Year.
Also, it tastes like absolute gold. And let’s not forget the nutritional benefits of cashew nuts, which though insignificant when compared to the sinfulness of the cookie batter, still cut a redeeming point amidst the festivities.
10. Sugar Candies
You will always see a tray of sugar candies in every household during Chinese New Year. Other than having the magical ability to turn children’s cries to smiles within seconds, these candies also mean sweetness and happiness among people.
Though of course, one could also argue that sugar itself effectively achieves that effect at any time of the year. But that’s beside the point.
11. Yu Sheng
And of course, how could we possibly miss out Yu Sheng – a conventional must-have for every Chinese New Year gathering?
During the festive period, family members will stir the yu sheng with gusto, and shout out blessings for each other. Each ingredient in the yu sheng is thought to have a specific meaning to it. For instance, the fish stands for abundance while the greens stand for eternal youth.
So the next time you make a mess while manhandling the yu sheng, just know that all the saliva and effort that go into the mixture are for a good cause.
Note: Please do not emulate the actions taken during the course of the video.
Featured Image: focal point / Shutterstock.com