For Chinese people, the most important meal is the supper of the Chinese New Year ’s Eve. It is a tradition that family members get together to celebrate the New Year. No matter how far away from home, you must come back to sit beside your families to enjoy this last dinner at the end of the year. Therefore, It is also as known as reunion dinner. It is very different from regular daily meals. There are so many traditions and dishes represent many special meaning and wishes. As for my family, we always hold this traditional meal at my aunt’s home, because she is the eldest person in my family since my grandparents have passed away.
I still remember the reunion dinner in the year 2013 which is my last family reunion dinner before I study aboard. We arrived at my aunt’s apartment at about 3 PM. My cousin opened the door after I knocked it. I greeted my Aunt Lan, Uncle Jianwei and Jianyi and other relatives respectfully and they give me the red envelopes with the lucky money in it. Everyone wore in a red colour which symbolizes happiness in Chinese culture. The room is full of joy and cheerful atmosphere. Several adults were preparing the ingredients of the dinner. The other adults and kids were watching the Spring Festival Gala Evening show which is a traditional spring festival TV show broadcasting on the eve of Chinese new year by China Central Television. Because of my curiosity, I went into the kitchen to see what foods were they preparing. Then I saw tons of materials which indicated that it would be a significant and hearty dinner. I saw fishes, chicken soup in the wok, beef cubes on the table, a big bowl of pork ribs and many more. Among those, I found out that my mother was making dumplings with others. I observed them for a while, then I ask to join them. After washing my hands, I got permission to make my first dumpling!
The first step is put a round dumpling skin which is a thinly rolled piece of dough on my left hand. Secondly, use chopsticks to add some filling on it. There were two kinds of filling, one was cabbage pork flavour and the other was chives pork flavour. Then comes the hardest part: wrap it and give it a nice “yuanbao” (ingot currency used in ancient China) shape which represents wishes of making fortune. It was my first time making dumplings, therefore, because of the lack of experience, mine was the ugliest ones among others’. But that was an enjoyable and unique experience. Finally, most of the dishes are perfectly cooked and ready to serve. Kids were asked to help cleaning table and setting up the tableware. We grabbed bowls and chopsticks from the kitchen drawer and put them in order. We were supposed not to make any noise with tableware, which is disrespectful to others. Then we prepared big glasses for those people who didn’t drink alcohol.
On the other hand, there were small Baijiu glasses for alcohol drinker. Baijiu literally means “white alcohol” is a kind of Chinese liquor that was made from grain. After tableware was ready, it was time to sit around the dining table. Alcohol drinkers would sit together, and kids would also sit with other kid. Dishes were brought out from the kitchen to the table. My family is from Sichuan, located in southwestern China. Sichuan dishes are famous at their hot spicy flavour. Therefore, most of the dishes were spicy. Begin with three cold dishes: cold noodles with spicy sauce, sliced spiced sausage, and spicy vegetable salad and serve with spring roll pancakes. We picked up some salad and wrapped it to make spring rolls. Spring roll is a very traditional appetizer during the spring festival, people eat them to celebrate the arrival of spring. The cold noodles were handmade by my Uncle Jianwei. I saw the whole processes that made the flour to dough, and dough to noodles. Then Uncle Jianyi made the noodle sauce. I found out that female is good at ingredient cleaning and processing, and male is good at cook those ingredients into dishes. Next, two hot fish dishes came out: Steamed fish head with diced hot red pepper, and steamed perch with scallion and black beans. My father bought those two fishes in the local market next to my home. My aunt cleaned these fishes and cook the fish dishes. The word “fish” shares the same pronunciation with “surplus” in Chinese. So fish dishes have a special homophonic meaning: more than sufficient every year. Besides that, each dish has its own symbolic meaning. That spicy fish covered in red pepper symbolizes flourishing prosperous, and the other non-spicy fish symbolizes safe and peaceful. By the way, we were not allowed to turn the fish over during the meal. That symbolizes the overturning of ships and boats, which isn’t a good sign.
Then comes three main dishes: stewed assorted delicacies, cooked by my father. There were a lot of materials in this cuisine, such as meatballs, mushrooms, sea cucumber, bamboo shoots, pork stomach, tofu and many vegetables. My mother and father helped to prepare the mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Bamboo shoots have a meaning of growing, so parents would ask their kids to eat lots of bamboo shoots to “grow up faster”. Uncle Janwei prepared sea cucumber and pork stomach and Aunt Lan fried those meatballs. It was the most delicious dish on the table. It was made from materials form many all over places and can almost only find in this meal over the year, therefore, it symbolized reunion. It took about three hours to cook. Aunt Lan cooked it by following the recipe of my grandfather. That made it the centre dish of this meal. The other two simple family dishes were braised pork ribs with potatoes in soy sauce and twice cooked pork belly. They are tasty and simple homely dishes. Uncle Jianyi bought those pork products and all vegetables. At the last, the chicken soup and the homemade dumplings. It gives me a feeling of a sense of accomplishment because I did a part of those. During the enjoying the meal, we stood up and cheered with others. Starting from the eldest and the youngest, talking to others about their wishes and New Year resolution.
Kids were playful, after eating, they just left the table and went out to play fireworks and firecrackers with others. Men would stay on the table, smoking, drinking and chatting about their anecdotes and experience, and women would begin to wash dishes. However, it is sad that I’m unable to join in the reunion dinner and enjoy New Year vacation with my families for years. It’s because the Chinese New Year is in February, I don’t have enough time to fly back during the winter semester.
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