Chinese New Year tradition & Re-union Dinner
15 February 2021
Every year, just before the Chinese New Year, tens of thousands mainland Chinese working in the cities will rush home to enjoy their traditional “Re-union” dinners with loved ones. Many would travel long distances to make it to their hometowns, which are largely located in rural villages. Why do our Chinese brethren bother to make the trip home? What is so special about “Re-union” dinners?
Well, reunion dinners have been a part of the Chinese culture for a long time. And when our forefathers, the early migrants came here, they brought with them this custom – celebrating the eve of CNY with a reunion dinner. As far as I can remember, the reunion dinner has been an exclusive affair – diners are all members of my family!
Re-union, (团圆) literally means to be reunited, to be together again. Hence, the CNY reunion dinner is a celebration of the Chinese value of unity among family members. As the saying goes, “blood is always thicker than water”! So, reunion dinners are an exclusive affair. Every family member will try to make it home just to participate in it, and the elders of the family will remind everyone not to start the meal until everybody has arrived.
If you ask me, I believe the reunion dinner is a very symbolic meal, and perhaps the most important meal for the Chinese family annually. To be coming home and sitting down for a meal symbolizes unity for the entire household. In fact, there is a Chinese Proverb that relates family unity to blessings - 家和万事兴！ The Chinese always advocate prosperity in their new year. So, to join the reunion dinner is to contribute to prosperity!
Interestingly, the bible teaches us that God delights in the Unity of His Covenantal people too!
“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting” Psalm 133:1-3
This particular psalm was sung in Old Testament times when pilgrims go up to Jerusalem for worship. The Jewish people, coming from all over the country, with diverse backgrounds, had to learn to travel amicably together so as to reach their destination. It was no easy feat, considering their diversity and differences. Hence the emphasis on Unity, because conflicts and contention were inevitable on their journeys. Yet the sight of Unity among God’s people was precious.
As we take time to celebrate the Chinese New Year, let us make it a point to celebrate Unity among believers, as God’s Covenantal people. Remember, just like the ancient pilgrims, we too are modern day pilgrims (1 Peter 2:11,12), journeying on the same Highway to Heaven!
Mr. Gn Chiang Tat