Traditional Chinese Spring Festival Food
Spring festival food customs vary from place to place in China because China is a vast country geographically, demographically and ethnically. But the spirit underlying the diverse celebrations of the New Year is the same -- a sincere wish of peace and happiness for family members and friends.
Spring Festival Eve dinner, a reunion dinner, also called "tuanyuan fan"（团圆饭/年夜饭tuányuán fàn /niányè fàn） in Chinese, is an extremely important dinner. "tuanyuan" means "getting together". Wherever they are, people will try their best to go home just for this "tuanyuan fan". This reunion dinner is held on Spring Festival Eve where members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration.
This custom is also called "surrounding the hearth," from the custom in earlier times of eating dinner around the family hearth. The dinner begins only after all of the family members are present at the table. A table setting is placed for those unable to come home for dinner on this day to symbolize their presence though far away. Spring Festival Eve dinner is best eaten slowly, savoring the flavor of each dish. The dishes are always rich and delicious. There is a dish of fish is unnecessary. Eating fish has a special meaning. In Chinese it means "niannianyouyu". Because fish in Chinese means "yu", eating "yu" symbolize "Surplus Year after Year".