Dumpling dread: fridges fill with empty Lantern Festival tradition

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-2-21 19:18:01


Though disliked, the dumplings are still stocked in every store. Photo: CFP
Though disliked, the dumplings are still stocked in every store. Photo: CFP

This year, Meng Jin, a 33-year-old micro-electronics product developer, is expecting her company to distribute rice flour dumplings again for the Lantern Festival holiday this weekend. She has received the yuanxiao every year during the Lantern Festival. Last year she received four bags, two with red bean filling and two with black sesame filling.

But Meng, who considers herself a yuanxiao lover, isn't that excited about the free dumplings she receives.

"I think it's nice when my company gives me free dumplings, but I never get around to eating them. Sometimes they stay in my fridge until the Dragon Boat Festival (which usually is in June)," she said.

In recent years, people have begun to tire of the traditional dumplings given for the Lantern Festival, much like how the Mid-Autumn Festival's moon cakes have fallen out of favor with Chinese people.

It's the same situation with Xu Bei, a 38-year-old civil servant in Beijing. For the past two years, she received free dumplings.

"Chinese people value holidays, and that's why shops are making money off holidays. It's become the norm now," she said. "But I think most people are buying the dumplings just out of tradition."

She doesn't have particular feelings for the dumplings and said she wouldn't go to the extent of buying any, since her company already gave out free bags.

For people who don't get free dumplings from their bosses, there's still other ways they find their fridges full of them during the holiday season.

Wang Yaqin, a 72-year-old retired veterinarian from Fangshan district, received five bags of dumplings from friends and family members. She complains that the quality has slipped in recent years.

"I cooked some earlier today and it didn't taste at all like it had any red bean filling. It tasted of flour," she said. "And I still have a few more bags. Where should I put them? The fridge is full."

Metro Beijing also reported on Tuesday that even though people are lining outside of brand snack shops for dumplings, the customers are complaining of price hikes and a drop in quality, quoting Wang Shihua, from China Time-Honored Brands Association, as saying people are only buying them because of the festival.

"Young people buy them because there are old people in the family and it's a tradition. No one cares about yuanxiao after the festival," she said.

Since the Lantern Festival is an annual event and the snacks are made every year as well, the supermarkets and stores need to do something different each year to promote sales.

Supermarket salespeople say there's still a need for the dumplings and that famous brands sell well, but agree that people are buying them for the holidays only.

Chen Li, a dumpling salesperson at Daoxiangchun, a knock-off of the famous Daoxiangcun brand, stands next to five bins of barely touched dumplings. She says she thinks quality is the reason for the poor sales, instead of dislike.

"Our quality isn't good. The skin is too thick and the filling too little. The famous brand Daoxiangcun sells so well that it never reaches our branch stores," she said.

Daoxiangcun charges about 30 yuan for 500 grams of dumpling while her company only charges 16.8 yuan, but still can't compete against that brand.

However, she agrees dumplings are a holiday snack and the reason people queue up outside the snack shops is for the seasonal taste more than a true passion for the food.

"It's the same every year. The sale of dumplings only lasts from Spring Festival to Lantern Festival," she said. "It's just the season."

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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