In addition, fish balls, shrimp balls, and meat balls are eaten
on New Year’s Eve because they symbolize the three top scores
during the civil service examination in ancient China. Among
all the dishes, Chinese dumplings are the most significant food
in the New Year. Dumplings, in the old saying, symbolize gold
ingots, so people believe that eating dumplings during the New
Year time can bring wealth to one’s life.
Enriched by the legend of the patriot Chu Yuan, the Dragon
Boat Festival occurs at the beginning of summer when insects
thrive. Events and customs of the Dragon Boat Festival are aimed
at driving off evil spirits and warding off diseases. Adults
drink hsiung huang wine and children are give fragrant sachets,
both of which are thought to be of ancestral origin and regarded
as having qualities to prevent evil and bring peace.
The most popular dish during the Dragon Boat Festival is tzung
tzu, originally eaten in memory of the patriot Chu Yuan. It
is said that after Chu Yuan ended his life by drowning, people
began throwing balls of sweet rice wrapped in bamboo leaves
into the river to keep the fish from eating Chu Yuan’s body.
Over time, tzung tzu gradually become more elaborate and its
fillings more varied; people nowadays eat it as a snack during
normal occasions as well.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most culturally significant
festivals for the Chinese people, and the most romantic. Falling
on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (September or October),
the festival centers on the moon, which is believed to be at
its roundest and brightest. The festival is said to have originated
from the ancient ceremony of Sacrificing the Moon Goddness.
In addition, the eighth lunar month is a harvest season, so
people take this opportunity to express their gratitude to heaven
(the moon) and earth for blessing them.
Evolving from the legend of the Moon Godess, the Chinese people
pray to the Moon Godess for protection, family unity, and good
fortune. Therefore, people eat moon cakes” on this day to represent
family unity and closeness. Pomelos are also eaten on this day.
In Chinese, pomelos are called yu, which is homophonous with
the word for protection.
These festivals are still being celebrated by the Chinese people
today due to their universal cultural significance. Traditional
festivals are one of the strongest bonds reinforcing the cultural
identity of the Chinese people besides the ethnic, geographic,
historic, and linguistic ties that unite the Chinese.
Sources: Cultural Heritage and Tourist Book Series,
published by Tourism Bureau Ministry of Transportation and Communication,
Republic of China. Website of the Government Information Office
of Republic of China: http//www.gio.org.tw K.C. Chang (1977).
Food in Chinese Culture