New Year’s Eve Dinner 年夜饭


With the approach of the Spring Festival, Chinese people will go home for family unions no matter how far they are away from home. This tradition has deeply rooted in every Chinese’s heart and become a folk culture.


New Year’s Eve dinner, also called family union dinner, is the dinner on the New Year’s Eve (the last day of the lunar year). On this day, families gather together to usher in the New Year. The tradition of family union dinner reflects mutual care and support for one another in Chinese families. Such bonds make family relationships closer.


New Year’s Eve is an important day for the Chinese. On that day, people prepare for family union dinner and usher in the New Year. The Chinese family values mutual respect and care, which forms strong family bonds. As heads of the family, elder people would be happy to see family members gathering together, while the younger generation will take this opportunity to express their gratitude to parents. What a lovely scene!


When kids are setting off fireworks, housewives are busy in the kitchen. Foods are prepared in advance, while dishes must be cooked on the New Year’s Eve. In the north, dumplings for the New Year would be made on the New Year’s Eve. Chopping sounds are heard in every household. In the street, chopping sounds, firecrackers, abacus and accounting sounds, mixed with laughter compose a happy movement of New Year’s Eve.


Having New Year’s Eve dinner is the happiest and busiest time for each family. On the New Year’s Eve, family members have dinner around the table served with plentiful dishes, bringing a sense of fulfillment and contentment. People not only enjoy a full table of dishes, but also the happy ambiance. Although New Year’s Eve dinner dishes are varied, such as main courses, cold dishes, fried dishes and desserts, two dishes are indispensable, which are hot pot and fish. Steaming hot pot represents the prosperity. Fish is pronounced the same as Yu, representing abundance and luck. Carrot is popularly called Caitou, representing good luck. Fried shrimp and abalone, and other fried dishes represent prosperity and good luck. The last course is desserts, representing a sweet life.


The customs of New Year Eve’s dinners are varied around China. Traditional dishes include dumplings, wontons, longevity noodles and rice dumplings. In North China, people eat dumplings, marking the transition between the old and the new years. As the shape of dumplings likes ingots, eating dumplings means good fortune in the New Year. Eating wontons means a new start. It’s heard that there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos in the beginning. After Pangu created the Earth and the Sky, the universe had square lands. Long noodle is also called longevity noodle. Eating noodles represents wishes for longevity.


Chinese people also like drinking white wine in honor of the New Year. Although some people cannot have a hearty drink, they would feel lucky for taking a sip. In the Spring Festival, people toast for luck and longevity on the table. The custom of drinking wine expresses people’s good wishes for better life and blessings for the New Year.