Parenting Tips

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reunion dinner



This year, Chinese New Year is on 19 February 2007 which is about one month away. Trationally, Chinese families would gather for a feast one day before the start of the Lunar New Year. This meal is known as "tuan yuan fan" ( ) or "Reunion Dinner" since it is almost always eaten after nightfall as the last meal of the old year. The venue is usually held in the home of the most senior member of the family.

This is one of the most important meals for the Chinese. Members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration. The reunion dinner should be eaten with all immediate family members present as a symbol of strength and unity in the family.

There is usually an abundance of food prepared for this meal, even by poorer families. The Chinese believe that having an excess of food on the table symbolizes good fortune for the New Year, as it would bring excess wealth. Depending on which Chinese ethnic group and region, below are some traditional food or meals that are prepared on this special day:

  • "Jiao zi" ( ), or dumplings. Meat and vegetables are wrapped not with rice but with a skin made of flour. This is a food commonly eaten as a meal in Beijing or northern parts of China. Family members would join in to make the dumplings which can be eaten throughout the New Year.
  • Steamboat dinner, or "huo guo" ( ). This is popular in Singapore and Malaysia. A family sits around a pot of steaming soup, place uncooked pieces of food into it and fish it out when it's ready. This dish is easily prepared dinner since all is needed is uncooked food and the soup.
  • "Fa cai" ( ), or black moss, is eaten as the name of the moss sounds like "to become prosperous" in Chinese.
  • Fish (, yú) is a must but not eaten up completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase 年年有餘 (nián nián yǒu yú), which means "may there be surpluses every year", sounds the same as "may there be fish every year."
  • Raw fish salad, or "yu sheng" ( ), may also be eaten. This dish is not found in China, but in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Its name sounds like "growing luck". This dish is also eaten on the 7th day of the Lunar New Year.
  • "Nian gao" ( ), also known as year cakes, may be fried to usher in the New Year. This is a sweet, sticky and glutinous cake which the Chinese believe that would make the New Year sweet and bring prosperity.
  • Some Taoist or Buddhist families might abstain from meat throughout the New Year. However, for poorer families, this might be the only time of the year when they can eat meat in abundance. A kind of preserved meat, called "rou gan" or dried meat, is popular during this season.
  • Another popular dish is tamarind and star anise chicken.
  • Buddha's delight, also known as 罗汉斋 (luóhàn zhāi), is an elaborate traditional vegetarian dish comprising 18 ingredients. A type of black hair-like algae, pronounced "fatt choy" in Cantonese, is also featured in Buddha's delight and other dishes, since its name sounds similar to fatt choy, the Cantonese word for "prosperity."

This list is definitely not exhaustive as many Chinese communities living around the world may have their own unique food or dish for the reunion dinner.

Shou Sui

守岁(Shou Sui) is when members of the family gather around throughout the night after the reunion dinner. During this time, they will reminisce about the year that has passed while welcoming the year that has arrived. Some people also believe that children who 守岁 (Shou Sui) will help to increase the longevity of the parents.


So parents, do share with your children on the significance of Reunion Dinner and Shou Sui. It is a good tradition to be passed down.



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