I was surprised when I learned there are many in Singapore who do not eat reunion dinners with their family. Coincidentally, and scary too, most involved families having three sons. A friend spent her annual reunion dinner with her godmother’s family instead of her husband’s mother. Her mother-in-law eats her dinner alone with another unmarried youngest son living together. The eldest son also has his own plans. In another family I know of, the eldest son do not eat reunion dinners with his father and siblings.
Yet in families where there are only (married) daughters, the families have reunion dinners with their daughters before Chinese New Year’s Eve as traditionally, daughters have reunion dinners with their husbands’ families.
What does that say about sons and daughters? Daughters, traditionally viewed as ‘married out’ are more often than not, the glue that holds families together.
I am generalizing, of course. My in-laws, a family with three sons have reunion dinners with their parents without fail. In fact, the three sons congregate at their parents’ house every Saturday night, not just on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
When I asked my friend why she doesn’t eat reunion dinners with her mother-in-law, a widow, her reply was the simple reason that her mother-in-law has never once invited them over for a meal. In the other family, the eldest son is estranged from the father, a widower.
Is having reunion dinners with your family really that important? Do we pity those who eat their dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve like any other night’s dinner, without their extended families around?
Yasmin Ahmad’s short video on Reunion Dinner reminds us on the many who do not have families to eat reunion dinners with. She depicted a little boy, but it could also be an elderly living in a home as well.
My Maternal Grandmother usually eats reunion dinner with my mother, until she decided this year that she is unable to leave her house. My aunt offered to bring the family and the food to her instead but was rejected. “Don’t be so troublesome!” Gran chided her. Aunt was understandably upset. Doesn’t Gran feel the importance of Reunion Dinner?
Some of us take our family for granted. It is thus not surprising that siblings end up like strangers, and cousins end up not knowing each other. Some view family gatherings as a waste of time, and would rather stay away. Bee recounted how her eldest brother called up at that very afternoon they were supposed to have a Christmas Bar-B-Q to cancel for his family of five. He too does not eat reunion dinners with his mother and siblings (family of three sons too). Sad to say, my maternal Uncle did that too on our Chinese New Year gathering, calling my mother to cancel on that afternoon itself. You can guess who he spend his reunion dinners with, not his mother, that’s for sure, but then Gran does not mind it too.
So if you had your reunion dinner with your extended family, count yourself fortunate that you belong to an extended family that treasures you.