How to survive your reunion dinner if you’re a first-time host

7 January 2020

Please your elders and impress your family with this easy guide.

If you’re hosting the family reunion dinner for the first time this Chinese New Year, or you’re meeting your significant other’s family for the first time over dinner, these are some of the things to take note of.

1. Settle on a location early
It’s fine if you’re hosting the dinner at your house, but if you’re thinking of heading to a restaurant, be sure to making your booking early, especially if it’s a popular venue for reunion dinners.

Book a table now.

2. Choose a restaurant that caters to your elders’ tastes
Reunion dinners are one of the highlights of the festival, and it’s also an opportunity to get together with your relatives once in a while. I’d opt for a restaurant that serves traditional Chinese cuisine to cater to your elders’ preferences. And frankly, it’s not often that you get to each such delicacies like the pen cai, bird’s nest, and abalone during the rest of the year.

3. Order an even number of dishes
While most restaurants have set menus, should you opt for the ala carte option, be sure to order an even number of dishes (except the number four, as it sounds similar to death in Mandarin), as odd numbers are generally associated with funerals.

4. Let the eldest family member sit facing the east or the entrance
This is a form of honour, and is reserved for the most respected member of the family. Unless of course, if your grandparents prefer to be seated near the exit or near the toilets for convenience, don’t insist.

5. Serve from oldest to youngest, and guests first
Let your elders have first dibs, and have your family members serve guests first if they’re bringing any.

6. Don’t rifle through the dish
It’s impolite, and it resembles grave digging. Either way, quickly pick up a piece, put it in your bowl, and move on.

7. Prepare red packets for the servers
If you’re eating in a Chinese restaurant or at a hotel, a waiter will usually be assigned to your table to help with the preparations of the yu sheng, and other dishes if any. The red packet is to wish them well for the new year ahead, and to thank them for their help.

8. Don’t stuff yourself if you can’t finish
You might not want to waste food, but if you can’t help yourself, leftovers are fine, as it represents abundance for the new year anyway.

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