Chinese people from all corners of the world celebrate the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival according to the Lunar Calendar. Therefore, the lunar New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are as important as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in western countries.
In China, there are different ways to celebrate the Spring Festival as people stick to various local traditions. But a reunion dinner is a must for everyone on Chinese New Year's Eve.
The reunion dinner on the eve of the Lunar New Year is like a magnet that draws all the family members back home. Reunion dinner is less of a ceremony and more of a promise that the family will once again unite despite their work and studies outside. The feast that's held on the eve of the New Year is always well prepared and sumptuous. Essentials of the feast include fish (representing an abundant year), lettuce (representing vigorous), shallot (representing wisdom), celery (representing diligence), chicken and duck. Although families still gather together, it is now often that they do not eat inside the home. Many restaurants will offer a Reunion Dinner Package to attract these modern people who want to have a great dinner but haven't enough time to cook
A reunion dinner (年夜飯)
A reunion dinner, named as "Nian Ye Fan", is held on New Year's Eve during which family members gather for celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year's Eve dinner is very large and sumptuous and traditionally includes dishes of meat (namely, pork and chicken) and fish. Most reunion dinners also feature a communal hot pot as it is believed to signify the coming together of the family members for the meal.
Most reunion dinners (particularly in the Southern regions) also prominently feature specialty meats (e.g. wax-cured meats like duck and Chinese sausage) and seafood (e.g. lobster and abalone) that are usually reserved for this and other special occasions during the remainder of the year.In most areas, fish (traditional Chinese 魚 simplified Chinese鱼 pinyin: yú is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase "may there be surpluses every year" (traditional Chinese 年年有餘; simplified Chinese 年年有余;pinyin: niánnián yǒu yú) sounds the same as "let there be fish every year."
Red packets for the immediate family are sometimes distributed during the reunion dinner. These packets often contain money in certain numbers that reflect good luck and honorability. Several foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. Several of the Chinese food names are homophones for words that also mean good things. Like many other New Year dishes, certain ingredients also take special precedence over others as these ingredients also has similar sounding names with prosperity, good luck, or even counting money.
More families having reunion dinner at hawker centres
With the Lunar New Year less than two weeks away, more families are turning to alternative venues, besides restaurants and their homes, to hold their traditional reunion dinners.
"We also went to the restaurants but then we are expected to finish our dinner within that timing”, said Teh Siong Koon, a customer at a hawker centre.
“We don't feel that type of comfort and relaxing mood, enjoying our reunion dinner. That's why this year we're trying something new and trying out in the hawker centre."
More families having reunion dinner at hawker centre
A hawker centre
In a sign of the times, more Singaporean families are having their reunion dinner at a hawker centre rather than a restaurant these days, reported the media.
One of the main reasons is price. Richard Lee, who will be having his reunion dinner at a hawker centre this year, said, “Prices wise, it’s quite a big difference.”
“In restaurants, you’ll probably need four, five hundred dollars for a set menu for 10 persons but here, probably… less than a hundred. You can actually have some very good food. You’ll have my favourites – char siew or turtle soup. You don’t have to eat abalone or shark’s fin,” he said.
MANY CHOOSING TO GO TO HAWKER CENTRES OVER RESTAURANTS FOR REUNION DINNERS
Whether it's because of price factors or added convenience, more families are deciding to have their Chinese new year reunion dinners at Hawker centres rather than in restaurants or at home.
Some hawkers have even brought in special festive dishes that they are selling especially for the Chinese new year period.
Some people who have decided to have reunion meals at hawker centres have cited that it's cheaper and more flexible than eating at a restaurant while it's more convenient than having to cook at home.