Students celebrate Lunar New Year with traditional dishes


Nikita Pande , Staff Writer

Hong Bao

“In Chinese culture, it’s essential for young people to show respect to the elders among us,” Emma Chang (10) said. One example of filial piety during Lunar New Year is the gifting of hong bao — red and gold envelopes that contain money. Usually, older generations offer younger ones wishes for successful lives through these envelopes. According to an ancient Chinese myth, the color red deters evil spirits, while gold signifies prosperity. When given an envelope, you should not open it right away, Chang said. What’s most important is not money but exchanging greetings for the new year.

Nian Gao

Ultimately, the best dishes are homemade — especially nian gao, a meal Max Feng’s (11) mother made for Lunar New Year, she said. The rice cake is decorated with dates circling the middle. “It’s sweet, but not too sweet,” Feng said. His mother made the dough and steamed it before their family gathered for their new year meal — as pandemic restrictions loosened, they were able to celebrate with a reunion and savor traditional foods like nian gao together, he said.

Yu Wan

Yú wán is a Wenzhounese dish Elizabeth Lam (9) enjoys during Lunar New Year. The dish is made from the brown croaker, a fish found along the Atlantic coast. “My uncle makes it fresh every single time,” Lam said. He grinds up meat from the fish into a paste and rolls it into fish balls, then boils them in a soup. Her family gathers to eat the dish at their new years dinner, a meal that is especially important to Lam because it is one of the only times she sees her mother’s side of the family every year.

Kao Zhu

“Every year, my family gets a big suckling pig that’s the size of my desk,” Nicole Au (10) said. In fact, it is so massive that her family cannot carry it home by hand. When her family purchases the pig from Chinatown — pre-ordered a month in advance due to popular demand — they have to drive up to the store and load it into their trunk, then drive back home where they unload it in their kitchen. The most delicious part of the dish, albeit unhealthy, is the pig’s crispy skin, Au said.


Dumplings are a dish Ben Wu (12) makes with his grandparents when they visit his house for Lunar New Year. This year, the recipe called for minced pork, diced vegetables, and grated zucchini. The critical final step is squeezing the zucchini to remove the water so that the dumpling filling doesn’t turn into a soup, Wu said. Then, he wraps the filling in circular wrappers, pinching the edges to form a crescent. “The crescent shape of dumplings represents the moon, an important sign of Lunar New Year which symbolizes prosperity and potential,” he said.

The Record’s guide to Chinese zodiacs

2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. Every new year corresponds with one of the 12 animals on the Chinese zodiac calendar, which repeats on a 12 year cycle. To find the zodiac animal for your birth year…

  1. Identify the most recent year when you turned a multiple of 12.
  2. Subtract that year from 2023.
  3. Starting with the rabbit on the zodiac circle, count counterclockwise for that number of years.
  4. The animal you land on is your zodiac.

(Alternatively, Google it.)