Well, that’s according to the Chinese lunar calendar anyway. The Chinese New Year falls on the 23rd of Jan this year and we will be flying to Australia to celebrate this important holiday with my husband’s family.
I used to take these festivities for granted. More often than not, it simply meant having extra public holidays and that it is time for me to book my getaway to Phuket or Krabi! To anywhere in the world actually. As long as there is no loud flute/cymbals/drums/more clanging cymbals-New Year tunes playing in shopping malls and elevators. (this reminds me of the time when my husband, my 2-month old son and I were stuck in the Singapore Flyer and had to endure almost 7 hours of Christmas jingles playing over the intercom. Did I mention it was a TECHNO soundtrack that was playing in ‘loop’??!!)
Chinese New Year is typically the one time in the year you get to see ALL your relatives who never fail to ask whether you have a boyfriend, when you are getting married, when you are having kids; or compare with one another how well their kids are doing in school. In my primary and secondary school days, it was the best opportunity for my mum to hassle my relatives on my behalf to buy a raffle for my school’s never-ending fundraising drives.
I was in Singapore last year over the Chinese New Year period and met up with my cousins and ex school mates. Many of us have kids now, and the festivities seem to take on new meaning when you become a parent. I must say, kids relish in the celebrations the most. They get to stay up late on the eve of Chinese New Year because the later you stay up, the longer your parents will live – that’s according to tradition. They also get to feast on many goodies like pineapple tarts, loveletters (rolled up thin sweet wafer biscuits) and bak kwa (bbq sweet meat), and receive red packets filled with money from the adults.
Seeing our extended families come together to exchange well-wishes and the new generation of my cousins’ kids, nieces and nephews playing together, the culturally-jaded (and over-exposed to western media) me is just starting to realise how much our cultural heritage defines our identity, even if we don’t speak our mother tongue fluently or can hardly remember how to write our names in Chinese characters.
Yes, sometimes it takes living away from people similar to you in culture and language to make you cherish these traditions, and to want to teach your kids about them.
We will be having a Chinese New Year reunion lunch with a few other Singaporean families this weekend. We will be having steamboat, or what the Swiss would call, Chinoise fondue, where you dip all types of meats and vegetables into a tasty broth. Singaporeans favorite pasttime is eating, and I know we will be eating from lunch ’til dinner, and have many bottles of the spiciest chilli sauce on hand.
To get into the festive mood, Timmy and I decided to make some Chinese New Year decorations. We made some goldfish with paper plates and colored paper. To the Chinese, goldfish symbolises good luck and fortune. Hope the New Year brings more blessings to our family!