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Updated: 2024-02-09 08:45 ( China Daily Global )
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A combination of roasted duck and chicken. CHINA DAILY

Family reunion dinner

The New Year's Eve dinner is the most important meal of the year, says writer and culture scholar Cui Daiyuan. "It's a reunion of family members with whom you share blood or marital ties. There are no leaders, colleagues, or classmates," Cui said.

Across China, fish is a common delicacy to relish on this occasion. "The fish must be whole, symbolizing a smooth and complete year. It's often soy-braised or cooked as a sweet and sour dish, both of which give it a vibrant red color, which holds auspicious meanings. Traditionally, carp is chosen as it is the epitome of good luck." However, many families also opt for mandarin fish or sea bass. In some regions it is common to find a wooden fish, carved and painted red, on the dinner table.

Cui mentions a special local dish called doujiang in Beijing, which is jelly-like and made by simmering diced carrots, dried tofu, celery, soaked yellow soybeans and strips of pigskin. It's meant to accompany drinking.

While dumplings are common in northern regions, the main staple for New Year's Eve dinner in Beijing is usually steamed bun. After dinner, families usually make dumplings using vegetable fillings. These dumplings, named "Wugeng dumplings" denoting the period from 3 am to 5 am, are to be enjoyed in the early hours of the second day. After eating them, it's a tradition to go out and visit relatives and exchange new year greetings. People in Beijing typically gift a box containing various snacks, Cui said.

In Northeast China, dumplings, usually filled with meat, are a must-have during the New Year's Eve dinner. Ren Pangbo, the general manager of the Fengtian restaurant in Shenyang, Liaoning province, shares that people in the region traditionally prepare pig trotters, chicken, and pork knuckles for this special dinner.

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