Chinese New Year’s Eve Family Reunion Dinner

Zhang Weijia, our Confucius Institute for Scotland Chinese language teacher, tells us about the special family dinner held on Chinese New Year’s Eve.  This year it will be on February 4th.  This will get your taste buds tingling.

Dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve, also known as Family Reunion Dinner is one of the major events of the Chinese New Year and is often considered the most important family gathering for Chinese people. Whether the meal is cooked and eaten at home or enjoyed at a restaurant, all members of the family, old and young, male and female, attend the feast.

Chinese people take great pride in their food. Much care and thought are put into the menu and the dishes are created to give blessings for the next year. Both the names and shapes are symbols to wish for prosperity, happiness and auspiciousness. Varieties of Chinese traditional dishes, dim sum, fruits, drinks and other treats are arranged in multi-shaped and elegant porcelain plates on a round table. The whole family sits around the table, enjoying the delicious food and pleasant conversation.

Although every region (even household) in China has different customs, some common dishes can be found on every table such as chicken, pork, fish and vegetables.

The food served at the New Year’s Eve feast has rich symbolic meaning. The dishes would definitely include fish. Fish is intentionally left unfinished to be kept for the next day. The reason for this is to echo a Chinese phrase 年年有余(nián nián yǒu yú) which means “to have abundant profit every year” as the pronunciation for fish (yú) in Chinese is the same as for “abundance” (yú).

Jiaozi (boiled dumplings stuffed with meat and vegetable filling) is a typical food in Northern China. Although boiled dumplings have long been a favorite food of Chinese people, they have only been an essential element of the lunar New Year’s festivities since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Jiaozi are the same size and shape as the small gold ingots that were used for money in ancient China. Therefore, eating Jiaozi satisfies the desire for wealth. See our delicious recipe at: http://www.confuciusinstitute.ac.uk/how-to-make-chinese-dumplings/

Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival. Spring rolls often appear on the reunion dinner tables in Southern China to celebrate the coming of spring. Traditionally, the filling is made of pork, Chinese cabbage, shiitake, carrots and seasoning. For those with a sweet tooth, there are Shanghai style red bean paste spring rolls as an alternative.