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Chinese Food and Family: The Importance of New Year’s Eve Dinner

Family is the foundation of Chinese culture. It plays an imperative role in the lives of Chinese people. Family is incredibly influential in China; it has been the center of all societal interactions. They understand that the family contains the most critical relationships for individuals and forms the foundations of all social organizations. That is why during holidays, people often go back to their homelands to spend the vacation with their family. Undeterred by the hassle of traveling with the influx of people returning to their provinces. Especially during the Chinese New Year. As it is the most consequential holiday for Chinese people, spending it with the family has been a long-standing tradition.

One of the activities Chinese people do on the Lunar New Year’s Eve Family Reunion Dinner. As the saying goes:

Dǎ yì qiān, mà yí wàn, sān shí wǎnshàng chī dùn fàn

打 一 千,骂 一 万,三 十 晚上 吃 顿 饭。

Beat 1000 times, scold 10,000 sentences, and have a meal on New Year’s Eve.

 Today, we will explore this tradition practiced for as long as time remembers.

Eating is the foundation of life. As the Chinese saying goes: ” mín yǐ shí wéi tiān “民以食为天) or Food is the most important thing for the people. People observe festivals in China through bountiful feasts. During Spring Festival, eating is one of the highlights of the celebration.

New Year’s Eve dinner wouldn’t be complete without a hot pot on the dinner table. Hot pot(火锅huǒ guō ) symbolizes prosperity in the coming year. There are also other essential dishes for every household to prepare. One of these is fish. Fish symbolizes that the wealth will be in surplus next year Because fish (鱼yú )and surplus (余yú )have the same pronunciation in Chinese. It is a commemorative charm to attract a year of financial success. Another dish is pig’s feet. Pig’s feet (猪蹄zhū tí )means scratching in the coming year to gain more wealth and good luck.

In some areas, especially in the north, people get together during New year’s eve to prepare jiaozi(饺子). Jiaozi looks like an ingot. They believe that eating jiaozi is a stroke of good luck in the coming year. On the other hand, Southerners will cook luscious glutinous dumplings on this night, which means that the following year will be complete of sweet blissful moments.

Households also prepare different kinds of fruits and candies during New year’s eve. Southerners prepare fruits such as oranges, tangerine, and pomelos. In the north, frozen apples, frozen peas, and frozen persimmons are the fruits of their choice. Regardless of region, most households arrange roasted seeds and nuts, such as melon seeds, peanuts, pine nuts, and various candies.

knowledge points

  1. 1. 年夜饭(nián yè fàn ): family reunion dinner on the Lunar New Year’s Eve

年(nián): the second tone. =year

夜(yè):the fourth tone, =evening, night

饭(fàn):the fourth tone, =meal

2. 民以食为天(mín yǐ shí wéi tiān ): the masses regard food as their heaven—food is the first necessity of the people

民(mín): the second tone,= the people, the masses

以( yǐ ): the third tone, =regard as =with =by

食(shí ): the second tone ,=food

为(wéi ):the second tone, =as

天(tiān ): the first tone, =heaven

3. 年年有鱼(余)(nián nián yǒu yú ):Fish every year. May you always get more than you wish for!

有(yǒu ): the third tone, =have =get

鱼(yú): the second tone, =fish

余(yú): the second tone, =surplus


Māma zhèng zài zhǔnbèi nián yè fàn ne.

妈妈 正 在 准备 年 夜 饭 呢。

Mom is preparing for the New Year’s Eve dinner.

“Mín yǐ shí wéi tiān ”,dùzi chī bǎo zuì zhòngyào.

“民 以 食 为 天”,肚子 吃 饱 最 重要。

“The masses regard food as their heaven.”, full stomach is the most important thing.

Zhù nín nián nián yǒu yú ,hóng yùn mǎn táng!

祝 您 年 年 有 余,鸿 运 满 堂!

May you always get more than you wish for, and good luck knocks at your door.

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