Renri 人日 or Yan Yat - Everybody’s Birthday 2014

Yan Yat - Everybody’s Birthday

The seventh day of the Chinese New Year is Yan Yat, Everybody’s Birthday. The Goddess Nüwa created human beings by molding them from clay. Farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success.
  • First Day of Chinese New Year: Welcoming of the Gods.
  • Second Day: For the ancestors and dieties and is the birthday of all dogs.
  • Fifth Day: Po Woo: Choi Sun, God of Wealth. [Welcomed at home on fifth day. Visiting brings bad luck]
  • Eighth Day: Tien Gong, King of Heaven [Prayed to at midnight. Fujian province]
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Renri 人日

Renri (Chinese:人日, literally Human Day) refers specially to the 7th day of zhengyue (正月, the first month in the Chinese calendar). According to Chinese customs, renri was the day human beings were created. It is celebrated not only in China, but also other regions influenced by Chinese culture.

According to legend, the custom dates back to the Han Dynasty, and gained importance after The Three Kingdoms period and Jin Dynasty. Traditional Chinese wear Rensheng (人勝) on their heads, or put sliced gold on pingfeng and hair. Poems are also composed on this day. Emperors after Tang Dynasty may grant beautiful clothing to his followers on this day.

If the weather on renri is fine, it can be forecast that God will grant good luck to all people on earth. Fireworks andHua Pao (花炮) are lit, so renri celebrates the "birthday" of fire as well.

Since the first days of zhengyue are considered "birthdays" of different animals, Chinese people avoid killing the animals on the respective birthday and punishing prisoners on renri.

Nowadays in zhengyue, renri is celebrated as part of the Chinese New Year. Chinese people prepare lucky food in the new year, where "Seven-vegetable soup" (七菜羹), "Seven-vegetable congee" (七菜粥) and "Jidi congee" (及第粥) are specially prepared for renri. The Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese use "Seven-colour sliced fish" (七彩魚生) instead of "Seven-vegetable soup".

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Seventh day of the Chinese New Year

The seventh day, traditionally known as Rénrì (人日, the common person's birthday), is the day when everyone grows one year older.

In some overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is also the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng, is eaten for continued wealth and prosperity.

For many Chinese Buddhists, this is another day to avoid meat, the seventh day commemorating the birth of Sakra, lord of the devas in Buddhist cosmology who is analogous to the Jade Emperor.

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Kindness for All-Season: Well wishes beyond the New Year

Lo Hei is a wonderful local tradition that stems from the Cantonese dialect, meaning  ‘tossing up good fortune’. It is the tossing of a salad with Yu Sheng or raw fish as the key ingredient. The pronunciation Yu Sheng sounds like 'overflowing abundance' and therefore symbolises ‘an abundance of wealth and long life’. The word hei in Lo Hei means ‘rise’. It refers to a thriving business, hence it is understandably a very popular ritual with  businessmen during the New Year.

From the kindness perspective, the ritual of Lo Hei is a very gracious act – an act where everyone wishes each other the best in every aspect of life.  There are many Chinese four-character phrases to express their kind greetings.

The ritual begins by wishing everyone  prosperity (gong xi fa cai) and moves on to identify some ten ingredients, each sounds like and therefore represents a kind wish. For example, fish sounds like “abundance”, so you say “wish you an overflowing abundance every year” (nian nian you yu). Green radish represents youthfulness, so you wish everyone eternal youthfulness (qing chun chang zhu). The plum source is usually added in last and since it is sweet, it therefore symbolises a sweet and pleasant relationship.  So we wish each other just that (tian tian mi mi), and so on. The mixture is then tossed 7 times as high as you can with loud shouts of “lo hei”.  You may shout  the auspicious four-character phrases as well.

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Yushengyee sang or yuu sahng 鱼生

Traditionally celebrated Renri, the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, Yushengyee sang or yuu sahng (Chinese鱼生pinyinyúshēngPe̍h-ōe-jī: hî-seⁿ or hû-siⁿ), or Prosperity Toss, also known as lo hei (Cantonese for 撈起 or 捞起) is a Teochew-style raw fish salad.

It usually consists of strips of raw fish (most commonly salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. Yusheng literally means "raw fish" but since "fish (鱼)" is commonly conflated with itshomophone "abundance (余)", Yúshēng (鱼生) is interpreted as a homophone for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.

While versions of it are thought to have existed in China, the contemporary version is created and popularised in the 1960s amongst theethnic Chinese community and its consumption has been associated with Chinese New Year festivities in MalaysiaIndonesia and Singapore. In Malaysia and Singapore, government, community and business leaders often take the lead in serving the dish as part of official functions during the festive period or in private celebrity dinners.

Eating Yu Sheng during Chinese New Year is a cultural activity for Chinese living in Singapore and Malaysia, but not so much in other Chinese-populated countries such as Hong Kong, where the practice is almost unheard of. This may be due to the origins of the dish, which was created by 4 master chefs in a Singapore restaurant kitchen way back in 1964,

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Meaning of the ingredients

File:Singapore Yusheng.jpg
Yee sang, yuu sahng, Prosperity Toss, lo hei
File:Singapore Yusheng 1.jpg
Yusheng - adding of ingredients
File:Singapore Yusheng 2.jpg
Yusheng - mixing of ingredients
Mixing of ingredients

When putting the yu sheng on the table offers New Year greetings.

恭喜发财 (Gong Xi Fa Cai) meaning “Congratulations for your wealth” 万事如意 (Wan Shi Ru Yi) meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled”

The fish is added, symbolising abundance and excess through the year. 年年有余 (Nian Nian You Yu) meaning “Abundance through the year”, as the word "fish" in Mandarin also sounds like "Abundance".

The pomelo or lime is added to the fish, adding luck and auspicious value. 大吉大利 Da Ji Da Li meaning “Good luck and smooth sailing”

Pepper is then dashed over in the hope of attracting more money and valuables. 招财进宝 Zhao Cai Jin Bao meaning “Attract wealth and treasures”

Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients and encouraging money to flow in from all directions. 一本万利 Yi Ben Wan Li meaning “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital” 财源广进 Cai Yuan Guang Jin meaning “Numerous sources of wealth”

Carrots are added indicating blessings of good luck. 鸿运当头 Hong Yun Dang Tou meaning “Good luck is approaching”. Carrot (红萝卜) is used as the first character 鸿 also sound like the Chinese character for red.

Then the shredded green radish is placed symbolising eternal youth. 青春常驻 Qing Chun Chang Zhu meaning “Forever young”. Green radish is used as the first character 青 also sound like the Chinese character for green.

After which the shredded white radish is added - prosperity in business and promotion at work. 风生水起 Feng Sheng Shui Qi meaning “Progress at a fast pace” 步步高升 Bu Bu Gao Sheng meaning “Reaching higher level with each step”

The condiments are finally added.

First, peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish, symbolizing a household filled with gold and silver. 金银满屋 Jin Yin Man Wu meaning “Household filled with gold and silver”

Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business. 生意兴隆 Sheng Yi Xing Long meaning “Prosperity for the business”

Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows is then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold. 满地黄金 Man Di Huang Jin meaning “Floor full of gold”

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Huat Ah!

Lo Hei 捞起 Yúshēng 魚生

The Chinese Lunar New Year is an annual festival where many traditions culminate from exchanging of oranges to the receiving of red packets and more. Still, as far as the Chinese New Year goes, the iconic yu sheng toss remains at the helm of all things festive. Yu Sheng, otherwise known as lo-hei or prosperity toss, is something that we’ve grown terribly fond of. A vibrant centrepiece dish comprising various elements, each boasting its own unique flavour and meaning behind it, the yu sheng is always the first order of business at any family gathering. Yet, as we find ourselves going through the motion of this tradition year in year out, how many of us millennials can actually say that we truly understand this practice and its significance? To a season dedicated to good fortune, family reunion and feasting, here is our guide on lo hei, what it is and what it represents.

Since its origins as a simple raw fish dish back in the 1930s, the recipe has undergone a series of transformations, and even until today, people are still finding innovative ways to present this dish. The dish was brought to Singapore in the late 19th century by the migration of Cantonese and Teochew migrants from China. “Lo Hei”, in Cantonese literally translates to “tossing up good fortune”, and it refers to the ritual adopted in Singapore that involves a group of people gathered around a massive plate, tossing its contents violently while saying out auspicious phrases before eating it—it is popularly believed that the higher the toss, the better your prospects and fortune in the year ahead.

At the very beginning, the salad itself consisted merely of raw fish slices, some vegetables and seasoning to taste. It was only much later on in 1964, where a quartet of chefs—known affectionately as the ‘Four Heavenly Kings’—reinvented the dish and served it at the then, newly opened Lai Wah restaurant. The new salad saw an improvement in texture, colour, and flavour. Key ingredients & what they represent:
  • Carrots – Represents good luck.
  • Green Radish – Represents eternal youth.
  • White Radish – Represents good job opportunities in the coming year.
  • Raw Fish – symbolises abundance and prosperity.
  • Pomelo – Represents luck.
  • Crushed Peanuts – Is a sign that your home will be filled with many valuable possessions.
  • Sesame Seeds – Represent the hope that your business will flourish.
  • Golden Crackers – Symbolises wealth.
  • Plum Sauce – A key component that binds the salad together, it represents stronger ties among family and friends.
  • Pepper & Cinnamon Powder – signify the wish for wealth
  • Oil – Often drizzled onto the salad in a circular motion rather than poured over. This is to symbolise that money will come from all directions.

Nián Nián Yǒu Yú 2024

Rabbitfish 白肚鱼 for Chinese New Year
Rabbitfish as a symbolic dish in Chinese New Year (CNY)

Rabbitfish is one of the must-buy food during Chinese New Year (CNY). The species commonly eaten is White-Spotted Rabbitfish. Its stomach region is usually bitter. CNY period coincides with their mating season, as a result, the fish taste great. Rabbitfish contains fish roe and milt (fish semen) during this time. Rabbitfish Milt tastes like soft tofu and with a tinge of seafood flavour. This is viewed as an abundance by the Chinese and will also buy it for its taste.

Fish is one of the most eaten food during the Chinese New Year (CNY). The word Fish (鱼yú) has the same pronunciation(余yú) as Chinese idiom 年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú). Traditional Chinese idiom represents surplus all year round. It is one of the popular auspicious blessings during CNY festive season. Chinese choose Rabbitfish as one of the preferred fish even calling it “发财鱼” prosperous fish. Thus, it is common to buy Rabbitfish as a custom is to wish their loved ones prosperity and living in abundance during reunion dinner.  There will often be some leftover fish to symbolise surplus that matches the idiom. Most importantly, CNY reunion dinner is once a year, Chinese will definitely buy it during CNY.

White-Spotted Rabbitfish is also known as Spinefoots and they belong to the Siganidae family. Rabbitfish is a diurnal animal (active during the day). At night, it often hides in between rocks and corals. Younger rabbitfish form large schools, while the adults are usually seen in smaller schools. Some species can reach up to a length of 40 cm. White-spotted Rabbitfish is more commonly found up to 15cm. The rabbitfish elevated spines contain poison glands on its fins. These spines can be found on their fins. As Rabbitfish have venomous spines on their fins, you must act with caution when handling rabbitfish. Although not lethal, its sting can inflict great pain to people. While rabbitfish are not aggressive in nature, however, they do not hesitate to sting predators in self-defence. Rabbitfish is mainly herbivorous. Its diet is based mostly on algae. Some species of rabbitfish eat zooplankton, seaweed and corals.

Chinese New Year Traditions

Do you know what should we follow and the meaning of traditional customs and cultures for Chinese New Year celebration? Let’s us look at following tips, they help your celebration easier and have a Happy Chinese New Year:
  • Spring Cleaning: All family members will clean-up the house together on the 28th day (of the last month) of the (old) year. Spring Cleaning symbolizes that sweeping all misfortune or bad luck away from the house. Plum blossom symbolizes lucky and representing people are resilient, even in a harsh environment.
  • House Decoration: Red lanterns and red banners will be hung beside the door to keep in good luck and longevity.
  • Reunion Dinner: In New Year Eve, the whole family members will gather together and have a sumptuous dinner. If a family member could not come for the dinner, his or her presence is usually symbolized by placing an empty seat at the banquet.
  • Symbolic dishes: In the reunion dinner, some dishes are mostly being served as they hold a symbolic good meaning. For instance, prawn featuring smile always and fish featuring prosperity.
  • Shou Sui (守岁): People stay awake all night for increase longevity of the elderly family members.
  • Angpau: Angpau with lucky money or sweet inside were distributed to the young by elders. The red color of the angpau symbolizes good luck and also ward off evil spirits. 
  • Ancestor Worshiping: Chinese believe that deceased family members have a continued existence and they will look after the family.
  • New Cloth: New cloth especially in red colour will be worn during Chinese New Year as it symbolize a new start and monster Nian scared about this colour. Black and white is avoided during Chinese New Year because they represent mourning.
  • New Year Visits (Bai Nian): Chinese travels back to their home town to meet their family and also to visit relatives and friends.
  • Firecrackers: To scare away any traces of monster Nian, because it is afraid of noise.
  • Lion Dances: The loud beats of the drum and cymbals together with the face of the lion dancing can evict bad or evil spirits. Lion dance are popular for visiting houses and shops to perform the traditional custom of "Cai Ching" (采青) as people believed it can brings prosperity to people.
  • Sticky Cake (Nian Gao): To appeasing the appetite of the Kitchen God and also sticking his mouth to prevent him from speaking ill about the family. 
  • Yu Sheng (鱼生): To achieve prosperity and vigor, normally having Yu Sheng on renri (day 7).
  • Jade Emperor Ritual (Bai Tian Gong): The Hokkiens will have another family reunion dinner, and they pray to the Jade Emperor at midnight (day8). 
  • Lantern Festival: Children will go out at night carrying lanterns which symbolic of hope and good luck. People will eat Tang Yuan (汤圆) as it considered to family reunion.