Why we eat pineapple tarts during Chinese New Year and the meanings behind other goodies

Feb 12, 2018

Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) which starts from February 16 proper this year – celebration takes place for 15 days – is a time to indulge, especially in treats that symbolise all things abundant and prosperous.


Bak kwa (barbecued sweet meat)

Originating from Fujian province in the days when meat was scarce, these slices of preserved pork (above) were a luxury treat reserved for guests and special occasions. Marinated with sugar and spices before being grilled, it is also called long yoke in Cantonese, which means to have robust fortune.

Love letters

Actually crispy egg rolls, they are said to be formerly used to convey secret notes between lovers. The recipient would eat the egg roll to show the words had been taken to heart. Its shape and colour also resemble gold bars, while the inclusion of eggs represents fertility.

Pineapple tarts

This buttery pastry with a sugary pineapple filling (above) is a mainstay of almost every household’s ba bao he (eight treasure box). The word for pineapple sounds like the arrival of prosperity in several Chinese dialects (ong lai in Hokkien and wong lai in Cantonese).

Roasted peanuts


Often offered to guests still in the husk, they are commonly called hua sheng (flowering of life in Mandarin), offering good wishes for health and growth. They are sometimes known as chang sheng gua (nuts of longevity; above), as their shape promises a long, healthy life.

SEE ALSO: Lunar New Year: Culture and traditions explained

Longan and red date tea

The Mandarin name for red dates is hong zao, which means prosperity comes early; while longans, a homophone for dragon’s eye, represent the legendary creature’s vigour. The ingredients are cooked in a sugared broth with wishes for a sweet life. Ginkgo nuts are often added as their shape represents silver ingots.