Traditional Chinese Spring Festival Food
Since the Spring Festival marks the first day of a brand new year, the first meal is rather important. People from north and south have different habits of the food they eat on this special day. In Northern China, people usually eat Jiao Zi (or dumpling) which is shaped like a crescent moon. It is said that dumplings were first known in China some 1,600 years ago. The Chinese pronunciation of Jiao Zi means midnight or the end and the beginning of time. According to historical records, in ancient times people from both north and south ate dumplings on Chinese New Year's Day. Perhaps because Southern China produced more rice than any other areas, gradually, southerners had more other choices on New Year's Day.
The shape of Jiao Zi resembles that of ancient gold and silver ingots or a crescent moon, and symbolizes the hope for a year of plenty. In some places, people stuff Jiao Zi with sugar to wish for a sweet life; others put one or two clean coins in Jiao Zi -- the person who finds the coin would make a lot of money in the coming year; if you happen to come across one with a coin inside, it means you will enjoy good luck.
People in northern China typically will eat dumplings (jiaozi) on New Year's Eve. This occurs because 'jiaozi' sounds like a word meaning 'bidding farewell to the old and ushering in the new.' in Chinese. Dumplings are always made before midnight and eaten during the last hour of the old year and the first hour of the Lunar New Year. Some people like to wrap a one-yuan, fifty-cent or ten-cent coin in some of the dumplings, as a token of good fortune for those who eat them. This is said to ensure good luck and prosperity in the New Year.