photo: Steamed dumplings ordered during a reunion dinner

Man’s furry best friends can now rejoice! 2018 is the year of the Dog in the Lunar calendar1. The Chinese zodiac system is an important element in Chinese culture. Its existence can be traced back over 2,000 years to the Qin Dynasty1.

Welcoming the Lunar New Year is essential to the Chinese. It sets out the potential for the upcoming year. With the proper preparation, it will welcome prosperity and health to those celebrating the Lunar New Year2. The Chinese New Year is the biggest traditional festival in East Asia3. One of the key activities that are a must-have in every Lunar New Year celebration is the reunion dinner3.

The reunion dinner is the time when children staying away from home are expected to return for the dinner which usually takes place on the eve of the Chinese New Year. This event has a greater social significance for family members who may live hundreds or thousands of miles apart in geographically larger countries. Married daughters are expected to join their husbands for their family reunion dinners and return home on the second day of the Lunar New Year. The traditional dishes include fish, eggs, prawns, chicken, and pork3. It is believed that each dish consumed during the reunion dinner symbolizes an attribute. For instance, chicken dishes represent togetherness and fish dishes are symbolic of abundance4. Some of these dishes are golden salted egg, chicken with curry leaves, crispy duck, steamed dumplings, superior fish maw, braised duck, pork ribs, and plenty more5. In Singapore, reunion dinners normally take place at home but in recent years, more and more families arrange for the dinners to take place at popular Chinese restaurants.

In Singapore, restaurants offer two dinner seating sessions due to overwhelming demand5. They also provide customized festive menus during the Lunar New Year. For example, Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant at the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel is fully booked for both dinner timeslots6. In order to accommodate more guests, hoteliers have expanded to accept additional reservations in their ballrooms too6. Diners claim that they made reservations one year in advance, accounting for 40 per cent in total bookings made specifically for reunion dinners6.

A duck dish ordered during reunion dinners


1. Chinese New Year 2018. (2018). The Chinese Zodiac. [online] Available at: https://chinesenewyear2018.com/zodiac/

2. Trip Savvy. (2017). Chinese New Year Preparations. [online] Available at: https://www.tripsavvy.com/chinese-new-year-preparation-1458287

3. Asian Inspirations. (2017). Why is the Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner so Important? [online] Available at: https://asianinspirations.com.au/asian-culture/why-is-reunion-dinner-so-important-during-chinese-new-year

4. Giant Singapore. (2018). The 2018 Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner Guide for Prosperity. [online] Available at: https://giant.sg/the-2018-chinese-new-year-reunion-dinner-guide-for-prosperity/

5. Miss Tam Chiak. (2018). 11 Best Reunion Dinners for Chinese New Year 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.misstamchiak.com/cny-reunion/

6. The Straits Times. (2018). Auspicious meals: 20 places to have a Chinese New Year feast. [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/auspicious-meals/