The meal on the eve of lunar New Year is the most important one for Chinese. It is a combination of sumptuous dishes along with generous wishes for good luck, prosperity and longevity.
Lunar New Year, the first day of the lunar calendar, marks the beginning of the spring season, and is also known universally as the Spring Festival. Chinese people believe that harmony between family members will bring happiness and abundance, so they try to overcome all difficulties to unite with their families. The tradition has lasted for more than 4,000 years.
This year, the Spring Festival falls on February 7. The snowstorms that are ravaging the southern part of China made the journey back home especially arduous. The storm has nearly paralyzed transportation and stranded tens of millions of people on their way home for the New Year. But the nation's spirit remains undaunted.
Food is of the utmost importance at this time of year. With the country's 56 ethnic groups and a long history, the rich, colorful culinary arts of China are almost limitless in their variety.
Traditionally, the dinner on the New Year Eve is homemade. Family members prepare the dishes together, and the preparation may take days or even weeks. Today, families are smaller in size, and the younger generation is more open to the Western lifestyle. As the pace of life accelerates, the traditional way of cooking the New Year meal at home is being challenged. More and more urban residents choose to dine out. Seats in many restaurants are booked up one or two months before the festival. In addition, many people choose to travel during the festive holiday, to ski grounds, beach resorts or even to other countries.
There is growing concern that the traditional culture will be forgotten if people no longer celebrate the festival at home. Mainstream media urge people to cherish the chance to have the most important meal of the year at home with family members. After all, family value is important for retaining the traditional culture and for a harmonious society.
Some families in big cities employ an innovative approach to prepare the lunar New Year meal. They hire chefs to cook the meal for them, so that they can enjoy the delicious food at home without going through the trouble of preparing the foods. It is reported that this new approach will be promoted in Shanghai. The city's labor departments have trained laid-off workers to cook quality New Year meals at local residents' homes. Trainees qualified for the job are issued certificates. Such a program brings double happiness-as families get to enjoy the meals, laid-off workers get a chance to reenter the job market. It represents a true celebration of the spirit of Chinese New Year.