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The Reunion Dinner  

2009-02-09 22:13:39|  分类: 杂谈 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The Reunion Dinner

No dinner is more important than the Spring Festival Eve dinner in China. It is known as one of the two reunion dinners in the year. The other is on the Mid-autumn Festival. That means on these two occasions all the family members must come back home and eat the dinner together. In the old times, there could be dozens of people in a big family. It was very difficult for so many people to get together and see each other again, which made the occasion more precious for the whole family. Life was so hard that I could have a taste of some chicken only at the dinner and then none for the whole year. Hunger gives one the best appetite. That’s why I still remember the dishes I ate when I was a small boy and think the same food today is so tasteless.

There used to be strict procedures for the grand dinner. Several days before the Eve people spared no money to buy the best food they could afford. It took a lot of time and efforts to prepare all the dishes, which usually included 8 cold dishes, 8 hot dishes, 6 big bowls, two kinds of dessert, a big pot of soup and fruit. Of course, liquor and Chinese wine of the best kind were indispensible. On the afternoon of the Eve, three tables were set with all the cold dishes on the red tablecloths. On the front of the tables candles and incense were burning and red mats were laid before the tables. When the cups were filled with liquor or wine, people would bend down  and touched their heads on the mats three times one by one. Meanwhile, a prayer was being said silently in the most solemn and serious manner. We kids were usually curious and excited about the ceremony, because we were told that the family ancestors would come to enjoy the food. But we could never find any. Finally, the moment we waited for came: we went out to the yard to burn the “paper money” which was some yellow paper and our family ancestors were supposed to get it in another world after it was burned. That was something really mysterious and wondrous to us kids. A most strange and fascinating game indeed.

Fish was the most important dish of the dinner, which, very strangely, was forbidden to be touches by anyone. Fish in Chinese sounds like the word “plenty”. Therefore, the dish means we will have plenty to eat in the new year. Even now, when people eat in the restaurant, they never finish all the food on the table. In this way, they believe they will always have plenty to eat in the future.

Only when the ceremony was over could we go ahead with the dinner. By that time, you can imagine we kids were just like starving wolves before so much delicious food. We ate, ate and ate until our stomachs were like balloons. No wonder I was so deeply impressed that every detail is still vivid and alive in my mind now. But the best was still to come. After the dinner, we boys rushed outside to fire the firecrackers, which were supposed to bring good luck to the family. When the clock stuck midnight, we wished all the elderly members a happy and prosperous New Year, and got the lucky money in red paper packets from them right away. Though we received only two or three yuan, we jumped with joy and excitement. Now if a kid gets two or three hundred yuan, he may not care, thinking he should be given more!

It seems that more and more people have chosen to eat the grand dinner in the restaurant, which has become a fashion. People have to book a table several months before or they will be told no table is available then. Almost no people hold the ceremony to worship the family ancestors any more. The tradition of the whole family getting together  and eating the Eve dinner together at home is disappearing. Should we feel happy or sorry for this?

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