The Grand Reunion Dinner of the year.
It is hard to describe what goes on in the mind of one who attaches the significance of observing and celebrating the most important festival of the chinese calendar - The Lunar New Year.
As important as the day itself, the day before that marks the end of the last lunar month of the year holds a rich culture and is so steep in tradition that it does not escape anyone who understands chinese traditions. Today, it is celebrated all around the world and is as diverse as any other festivals, touching upon the lives of many other races and backgrounds.
The day before the start of the Lunar New Year falls on the 21st of January 2023.
It is known as the Day of Reunion and will be celebrated with a family feast called the Reunion Dinner.
Days before, family members who are abroad or live a distance would prepare the annual migration called the Homecoming. This will culminate with the gathering of as many family members as it is possible, some of different generations. It bears witness to the family as one seeing to the end of the old year and welcoming the new year together.
The Chinese poet, Su Dong-po, during the Sung dynasty once wrote 'Seeing an old friend depart is emotional and I will likely miss him temporarily. We can always meet again. But no one can capture the moment of a passing time'. Just like the year that will pass.
As the most important meal of the year, families will spare no effort in ensuring the best that they can afford as the abundance of food on the table is meant to symbolize that the family will not go hungry all year round.
The food on the dining table for the meal bears their respective importance and some of them are quintessential.
Fish, and it most be the whole fish, complete with its head to tail, puns as surplus and an increase in prosperity.
Dumplings, shaped as ingots representing money, are supposed to bring in wealth and fortune.
Chicken, cooked in any style, must come complete with its head intact and tail to symbolize good luck and wholeness, in hope of things and endeavours that will be complete and full.
Spring rolls, sounds like the festivities and auspiciousness of Spring, will forever be with you bringing you much harmony and balance.
Longevity noodles are consumed so that all will achieve happiness and longevity.
Prawns, in various dialects of the Chinese language, sounds like the equivalent of laughter and happiness.
Vegatables, such as the fresh lettuce, signifies life, new hopes and energy, vital for everyone to start the new year with vigour and promises.
It is also customary to end the meal with the New Year cake and glutinous rice balls to round up the dinner for unity and a sweet beginning.
Beyond the food, the Reunion Dinner also brings about the meaning of the young showing their repects to the elderly. The Kitchen God, after making his rounds in Heaven and making his reports to the Jade Emperor, returns to join in the celebrations on this day. It is also a time to include the less fortunate and it is not uncommon for some to invite those without families to join them in this celebration. Such is the spirit to the Eve of the Lunar New Year.
Mistakes are forgiven, dreams are laid out, happiness are shared and on a night when traditionally, the beast of the old year is chased away, everyone will make merry, stay past midnight to welcome the God of Wealth together, make offerings and prayers to the heavens, sleep well and wake up to a brand new year, a time to experience bliss and joy.