What each food symbolizes during Lunar New Year

CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Many celebrations are happening Saturday to kick off the Lunar New Year.

It is the start of 15 days of festivities to welcome in what is called the Year of the Rat. Along with parties, a key part of the tradition is food.

The Lunar New Year is a busy time in Chinatown, and on the eve of the New Year, there is a feast known as the 'reunion dinner.'

RELATED: Lunar New Year celebrations to stream live on abc7NY.

Felicia Guo has a media company that promotes Chinese culture - she is joining the meal made of friends rather than family at Amazing 66 restaurant on Mott Street.

Every food has a symbolic meaning - either wealth, health or good luck.

The celebratory meal almost always includes eight dishes. The number eight is lucky - often times there is one whole fish, but you are encouraged to have some left over to represent a surplus for the year.

Long noodles represent longevity - slurping is encouraged. The rooster symbolizes wealth, shrimp plays on the idea of laughter, lobster is for energy, steak inside a squash is a house full of treasures, and dumplings are traditional in Northern China. There are also eight dried oysters and pork feet.

And it is not just food at these meals - there is also good fortune.

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