Dumplings for the Deceased on New Year’s Day

Text: On New Year’s Eve, dumplings are served for the close family members that passed away, such as grandparents or great-grandparents. Each person being commemorated will have an individual plate/bowl with utensils. Then, the family would call the family member and say, “It’s a new year, time to come home,” and then start eating the other portion of the dumplings.

On New Year’s Eve, my informant’s family will make and cook dumplings. Before she and her family eat the dumplings at midnight, they will use small bowls or plates to contain a small portion of the dumplings. She believes it’s a way to connect with the old family members since the new year is the time to gather with family. It is an essential part of her New Year, and she was surprised when I said I never heard of anything like that. According to my informant, she knows a few people who celebrate the New Year, like her family.

Serving dumplings for deceased family members is symbolic of their continued presence and inclusion in the family celebration, even though they are no longer physically present. Inviting them to come home and eat with the living family members shows a belief in an afterlife and the importance of family ties, both in life and in death.
This tradition also reflects the value placed on family in Chinese culture. New Year is a time of reunion and coming together, and this ritual-like act emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and remembering those who have passed away. Continuing to include deceased family members in the celebration reinforces the idea that they are still a part of the family and not forgotten.
This tradition also highlights the importance of food and its role in Chinese culture. Food is not just something to eat but has symbolic meanings and cultural significance to Chinese people. In this case, dumplings are not just a delicious dish but also serve as a connection to the past and a way of honoring their loved ones.