In ancient China, the year-end period was usually cold and wintry, so on the eve of the new year, family members would gather around a pot of simmering hot soup and cook and eat and fellowship. It’s referred to as a hot pot meal or in Singapore, more commonly known as a steamboat meal.
Nowadays people still rush home to enjoy a reunion meal with the family, much like what Americans do during Thanksgiving.
The world’s largest annual human migration, China’s annual Chinese New Year travel rush, is expected to break records in 2024.
The Year of the Dragon is considered the most auspicious in the Chinese zodiac. During the Han dynasty (206BC to AD220), the Dragon became a symbol of the emperor. This association became so prevalent in later eras that Chinese people became known as “descendants of the dragon.”
So it’s understandable that this year, little is stopping millions of Chinese from returning to their hometowns or going on holidays to celebrate the new year, referred to in China as the spring festival.
The number of trips during this period is expected to hit a record nine billion, be these over road, rail, water or air.
Here at home in Singapore, the clan gathered for our annual reunion dinner last night and as usual, in addition to some other yummy dishes, there was a hot pot – family members gathered around a pot of simmering hot broth infused with hair-removing monosodium glutamate, and cooked and ate and chit-chatted and tried to be civil. Political discussions were politely avoided and no one asked the childless why they still had no kids and no one asked the unmarried why they couldn’t find spouses and people’s weight and the shape of their bodies were not brought up.
Of course, post-Covid hygiene consciousness now meant that no one dipped his own pair of chopsticks or spoon into the communual hot pot, instead extra pairs of serving chopsticks and extra serving ladles were provided for common use. Still, I’ve heard that in some dysfunctional families, those who were paranoid would always feign discomfort and would insist that a separate pot be prepared for their exclusive use. If anything, it’s stupidity, and not imbibing someone else’s saliva that will kill them eventually, don’t they know? Well…so much for family reunions!
Thinking back, to be honest, the idea of eating from a hot pot sounds like a real Neanderthal one to me.
Next year if I were still alive, I think it’s best for the entire family to go to a nice, high-end, award-winning, air-conditioned fancy Chinese restaurant and order many very delicious dishes of delicacies instead of the whole family dipping tasteless raw, un-cooked food into a pot of boiling soup and pretending to enjoy it. Do we really need to be as primitive and as uncivilized as the Japanese? Eating raw food in this day and age? Even a pathetic, slapped-together plate of noodles by an untrained cook in an obscure eatery will be lightyears ahead of that idiotic hot pot garbage! Yes, let’s all sit down comfortably and be waited on, hand and foot, and be served innumerable scrumptious dishes!
And no so-called “buffets” delivered to the home please – most are quite bad and are designed by scheming caterers to feed subpar food to mourners at funeral wakes.