What are some highlights of the Lunar New Year celebrations? For many of us, it includes receiving red packets, exchanging New Year’s greetings, enjoying LNY goodies, and watching the fortune-bringing lion dance performances. However, we cannot forget another iconic Lunar New Year ritual, which is the tossing of yu sheng, also known as Lo Hei!
A practice everyone can participate in, Lo Hei is the Cantonese word that translates to “tossing up good fortune”. We use yu sheng to Lo Hei because of the symbolism of the dish. Yu sheng (鱼生) directly translates to “raw fish,” and it shares the exact same pronunciation as the words 余升 (yú shēng), which means “an increase in abundance”. Hence, when auspicious phrases are said as the yu sheng ingredients are mixed together and tossed up high, it is believed that fortune, wealth, and everything you wish for will come your way in the same year – the higher, the better.
The yu sheng we use in Lo Hei, has undergone many additions and variations over the years. Brought over from China by the Cantonese and Teochew dialect groups in the 19th century, yu sheng began as a simple raw fish salad. It consisted of raw fish slices tossed with slices of ginger, spring onion, coriander, sesame seeds, lime juice, and oil. The yu sheng we eat today has several additions of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other condiments. While these additions give the dish more flavour, the other ingredients also have their own symbolisms that usher in good fortune and prosperity.
Once family and friends are gathered around the table, the Lo Hei begins with the ingredients being added one-by-one to a large tray in the center in a specific order. As each ingredient is added, the people gathered around the table usually recite the accompanying auspicious phrase that calls out good fortune.
The order in which the yu sheng ingredients are added, and their accompanying phrases are as follows:
- Raw Fish, 年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú) – to a year of abundance
- Pomelo, 大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì) – for luck and auspicious value
- Pepper and Cinnamon, 招财进宝 (zhāo cái jìn bǎo) – a wish for fortune and prosperity
- Oil, 财源广进 (Cái yuán guǎng jìn) – for multiplying profits and for money to flow in from many directions
- Carrots, 鸿运当头 (hóng yùn dāng tóu) – for blessings
- Green Radish, 青春常驻 (qīng chūn cháng zhù) – to wish for eternal youth
- White Radish, 风生水起 (fēng shēng shuǐ qǐ) and 步步高升 (bù bù gāo shēng) – for prosperity and promotion in your careers
- Chopped Peanuts, 金银满屋 (jīn yín mǎn wū) – which translates to “a house filled with gold and silver”
- Sesame Seeds, 生意兴隆 (shēng yì xīng lóng) – that your business will prosper
- Crackers, 遍地黄金 (biàn dì huáng jīn) – translates to “having a floor filled with gold”, a wish for abundant wealth
- Plum Sauce, 甜甜蜜蜜 (tián tián mì mì) – for sweet and loving relationships
Once all the yu sheng ingredients have been added, it is time to mix it! Toss it up as high as you can and say “huat ah!” to bring prosperity to yourself and your household! It is believed that by participating in Lo Hei, along with all its well wishes and meanings, this sets the year up to be a good and prosperous one with your loved ones. With this understanding, we hope that more than just a Lunar New Year ritual, your next Lo Hei will be a more meaningful and memorable one!
For a pocket guide on what to say during the adding in of yu sheng ingredients, check out our Facebook and Instagram posts and refer to them when the occasion arises! To all who follow the lunar calendar, Happy Lunar New Year! May your year be filled with wealth, health, and prosperity!