A reunion dinner is held on the eve of the Chinese New Year, during which family members get together to celebrate. It used to be dinner time where all family members gather around but due to work or other family commitments, it can be any time of the day as long as it is on the eve.
My mum is very particular that everyone is home on time and start at the auspicious time/hour. Since I moved to the UK and started my own family, I’ve adopted this practise this and hope I can pass on this culture to my children.
We always have a ‘steamboat’ for reunion dinner without fail. There will be fish with spring onion, chicken, pork, roast duck, abalone, seafood and a range of vegetables. It is our culture to fill the whole table with food for an auspicious sign to fill our life with wealth. Spring onion played an important part in most of the dishes during my school days as it means students will be excel in studies. My mum made us eat it all up!
On Thursday, I had cooked verity of dishes like chicken, fish and vegetable. Fish is always a common dish to cook during Chinese New Year season as it represent (年年有余) be blessed every year and of course lots of spring onion for garnish.
After our dinner, we gave our children 压岁钱. As a Chinese traditional, the ang bao has to contain an even amount of money like £2, £4, £6, £8, £10 and so on. Odd numbers represent bad luck. The children will then put it inside their pillow for 15 days of New Year to ward off evil spirits.
Then everyone will put on their new pyjamas/clothing. Why do we wear new clothing? It symbolises a new beginning. There is also a tradition for children. They are not supposed to sleep until past midnight. Of course, we are living in the UK and Chinese New Year is not a UK bank holiday. Both children had slept well before 8pm.
In countries where Chinese New Year is officially recognised, they normally have two days of public holidays, where children are allowed to stay up past midnight into the New Year. It is called 守岁 (ShouSui). 守岁 is for the youth to stay up late to prolong the life of the parents. That is the only day that children are allowed to stay up late at night and if you are Buddhists, you might follow your parents to the temple for praying. We usually set off at 11 pm and go around to a few different temples to pray. This is not something we practise in the UK as we are not close to any temples. So my husband and I just spent the time relaxing and watching telly! How I wish I was in Singapore right now to celebrate the Chinese New Year!