Monday, August 2, 2021

New Year Reunion Dinner in Taiwan

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival (chūn jié 春節), is the most important festival for Taiwanese people, and the Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner is the most essential part of the festival. Commonly referred to as the “reunion dinner (nián yè fàn年夜飯, or tuán yuán fàn 團圓飯),” the feast is the occasion for family members to get together to celebrate the coming of the New Year.

Please watch the following video of the New Year Reunion Dinner in Taiwan.

Traditionally, Taiwanese people have their New Year’s Eve reunion dinner at home, and a variety of delicious traditional dishes are served at this most important dinner of the year.

The dishes served at the reunion dinner of a family in Taiwan. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)
The dishes served at the reunion dinner of a family in Taiwan. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Since the shape of dumplings (jiǎo zi 餃子) resembles that of ancient silver ingots (yuán bǎo 元寶), Taiwanese tend to eat dumplings on this important occasion to symbolize bringing in wealth and prosperity for the New Year. At the same time, eating dumplings implies sending away the old and welcoming the new. Many people are of the belief that the more dumplings one eats at the reunion dinner, the more money he or she can make in the coming year.

The braised  one-piece pork tower (一刀扣肉塔)served at a Lunar New Year
The braised one-piece pork tower (一刀扣肉塔)served at a Lunar New Year’s Eve reunion dinner in Taiwan (Image: Julia Fu / Nspirement)

Fish is an indispensable dish at the reunion dinner, as the Chinese pronunciation for fish (yú魚) is a homophone of the character for surplus (yú餘). So along those lines, the reason why people attach much importance to this dish is because the popular Chinese phrase “nián nián yǒu yú” (having fish every year年年有魚/餘)” symbolizes a surplus every year.

The braised fish at a reunion dinner in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)
The braised fish at a reunion dinner in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Always leave leftovers at a reunion dinner

Additionally, due to the fact that leaving some leftovers signifies abundance and prosperity in the coming year, it has become a norm that the fish served at the reunion dinner is not eaten completely. Some families only eat the middle of the fish and let the head and tail remain intact. This practice is thought to derive from the Chinese phrase “having both a head and tail (有頭有尾yǒu tóu yǒu wěi),” which means completeness.

“Buddha Jumps Over the Wall (fú tiào qiáng佛跳牆)” at a reunion dinner in Taiwan. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)
‘Buddha Jumps Over the Wall (fú tiào qiáng佛跳牆)’ at a reunion dinner in Taiwan. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

“Buddha Jumps Over the Wall (fú tiào qiáng佛跳牆),” also known as “Buddha’s Temptation,” is a traditional Chinese delicacy famous for its curious name and rich taste. Eating “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall” on Lunar New Year Eve is symbolic of reunion. It has become more and more popular among people in Taiwan to have this traditional dish at the reunion dinner. As it takes much time and complicated procedures to prepare the ingredients, most families order this dish from a restaurant, a convenience store, or just order it online nowadays.

An assorted dish at the reunion dinner in a five-star hotel in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)
An assorted dish at the reunion dinner in a 5-star hotel in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Mustard greens, also known as perennial vegetables (jiè cài芥菜, or cháng nián cài長年菜), are a standard vegetable dish for the reunion dinner. Taiwanese people like to have them on Lunar New Year’s eve because they are the homonym for the Chinese phrase for long life (cháng nián 長年). So eating mustard greens suggests longevity.

Mushroom braised sugercane vegetable at a Lunar New Year
Mushroom braised sugarcane vegetable at a Lunar New Year’s Eve reunion dinner in Taiwan (Image: Julia Fu / Nspirement)

Spring rolls are a common dish for the reunion dinner too, because their golden cylindrical shape looks like gold bars, which are symbolic of wealth. In the meantime, eating spring rolls on Lunar New Year’s Eve is also indicative of marking the beginning of spring.

Many familiies have their Lunar New Year
Many families have their Lunar New Year’s Eve reunion dinner at the restaurant of a 5-star hotel in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Glutinous rice cake (nián gāo年糕) is usually deep-fried and eaten as a dessert. Since glutinous rice cake in Chinese is the homophone for the Chinese phrase “higher every year (nián nián gāo年年高), Taiwanese people eat the rice cake in hopes that everything will be better in the coming new year, including the growth of children.

The menu of the reunion dinner at a five-star hotel in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)
The menu of the reunion dinner at a 5-star hotel in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Other commonly seen dishes at the reunion dinner in Taiwan include chicken (symbolizing togetherness and rebirth), pork (denoting peace), sausages (indicating happiness), lobsters (signifying endless money rolling in), shrimp (implying fortune and wealth), mullet roe (representing hope and good fortune), scallops (suggesting fertility), etc.

The performance at the reunion dinner in a five-star hotel in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)
A performance at the reunion dinner in a 5-star hotel in Taipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

Due to the significant social changes in recent years, it has become trendy to have the reunion dinner at a restaurant nearby instead of having it at home. Because of this, people have to make reservations at a restaurant long before Lunar New Year’s eve. In particular, it’s hard to reserve a table at fancy restaurants in big cities.

The Lion Dance Performance at the restaurant of a five-star hotel in Taiipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)
The Lion Dance Performance at the restaurant of a 5-star hotel in Taiipei City. (Image: Billy Shyu / Nspirement)

After eating the reunion dinner, it’s time for giving away red envelopes (hóng bāo紅包, or yā suì qián壓歲錢). With money inside, red envelopes are usually given to children and elders to wish them good luck and fortune in the coming New Year.

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Billy Shyu
Billy has a liking for the beauty of nature and authentic traditonal culture. He has published over 100 articles on the beauty of Taiwan, traditional culture, and other interesting topics. He will continue to share more interesting articles with our readers
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