Had a chance to chat with a colleague from China a few days ago about the local customs during Chinese New Year in his home town. It seems that many of the things that I have always taken for granted may be quite different in different areas in China. Two examples are the reunion dinner, and rice cake.

On New Year’s Eve, it is a long-standing tradition for Chinese families to have what is known as the reunion dinner. In the old days, this is probably the only chance in a year for the whole family to be together, as more and more people elect to leave their home towns to seek their fortunes in the big cities. People make it a point to be at home on New Year’s Eve.

From my conversation with my colleague, it seems that for the provinces to the south of Yangtze River (of which I belong to) the tradition is to have a steam-boat dinner, whereas in northern parts of China, dumplings are the main offerings.

Another difference is in the type of raw material used in making the traditional rice cake. To the south, the main ingredient is sticky rice and the rice cake is made sweet; it is usually pan fried and very, very sticky when heated. To the north, plain rice is used so it is white in colour, and tastes quite plain; it may be deep fried or boiled and eaten as a salty dish.

Guess I would never have known such things if I simply assumed that the same customs applied everywhere in China!? To me, this diversity is precisely the beauty in life!