SGPsychStud: Psychology of having SteamBoat

This is the second Chinese New Year post! If you have yet to read Psychology Behind The Red Packets, read it now!

Image Credit: Wiki Commons (
Today's topic is about the Steamboat (or also know as Hotpot or 火锅 in Singapore)!!  It is a dish very commonly found and available all year round, so...
Why are we still having it for Chinese New Year reunion dinner?

Some families may choose to have a banquet dinner, but majority would still go for the all-favourite steamboat!

It seems to have a logical reason after exploring several sources.  Going back to Chinese customs and traditions, two words explains it all.  They are 围炉 (read as wei-lu; meaning "gathering around the family and hearth" as defined by National Library Board) and 团圆 (read as tuan-yuan; meaning of "reunion" and "getting together as a whole").

According to this Taiwanese Yahoo forum, it is common to have a hot stove to warm up the family during the reunion dinner (which is 围炉) during the Chinese New Year winter in China.  This has evolved to the steamboat in modern day.  With a burning fire for steamboat, it represents a prosperous family.  With the steamboat dinner, it allows the whole family to come together and reunion (which is 团圆) for this special dinner.

Why do we need to have this special reunion dinner? (From a psychological viewpoint)

Mark Banschick (in a Psychology Today post) states the benefits of having a dinner together:
  • Setting a fixed routine
  • Catching up and bonding with family
  • Reducing stress
  • Food as a connection between people
This behaviour of sitting together for a family meal could be explained using the relational models theory (Fiske & Haslam, 2005).  According to Alan Fiske,
"Relational models theory posits that people use four elementary models to generate, interpret, coordinate, contest, plan, remember, evaluate, and think about most aspects of most social interaction in all societies. These models are Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, and Market Pricing. Scores of studies have demonstrated that people in all cultures use these models to organize much of their everyday social cognition."
With the above reasons, it highly demonstrates the model of Communal Sharing, where the family comes together once a year (or more), performing "comunal sharing" by having New Year's dinners or lunches, and hence increasing the cohesiveness and connectedness of the group.
It is not really about the steamboat dinner, but more of having a dinner with the whole family where everyone comes together on this one special evening.  Regardless of a banquet, steamboat, or even a simple family meal, it is always the company of the family that counts.