Chinese New Year is just round the corner, and everyone is in the Chinese New Year mood. The Lunar New Year is one of the favorite times of the year for the kids, as not only do they get ang pows, but they also get to meet up with their cousins, and tuck in to their favorite pineapple tarts, love letters and other festive delights. Yes! And add in the added privilege of NOT needing to wake up early for school or work…Everyone learns this holiday season! 🙂
As a parent, the Chinese New Year come with even more perks! It is a time where we can get the children to learn more about their Chinese culture and traditions. One “important” tradition that we have been teaching them, is how they can only clean the house before the New Year! This is always important, as we love to get them involved in the housework!
Over the past month, whenever we go grocery shopping, the kids realised that everything is starting to look a little different. Most obvious, was the cheery Chinese New Year music played over the sound system. And all around, they noticed foods that are usually not displayed! From Abalone, Fish Maw, Mushrooms, Pomelos to Mandarins, they can tell that Chinese New Year is coming!
To the kids, some of the food stuff can look really quite unusual. Nathan gives us the puzzled look, and gives us the, “What on earth is Fish Maw?” look. Besides the questioning “what is this” and “Is it nice to eat” look, there are tons of questions on their minds. Frankly, I am NOT an expert in Chinese Culture… and sometimes I can get stumped by their questions.
So the best way to find out the right answers would be Popo and Gong Gong! My parents in law are true blue Cantonese who are big on following traditions! And my mum in law especially, is a very good cook, which really makes her the expert to answer all these questions about these festive auspicious food!
We decided to ask Popo and she gave us a short tutorial on her personal favourite traditions and food for the season (she says it’s impossible to list them all! There’s simply too many!)
First off, there is the ever popular Reunion Dinner! Popo told the kids that in China, families can be separated by far distances. As a result, these dinners are very important, as it is a great opportunity for the family to reunite and have a feast together. Popo was quick to add that, the meal must come with a wealth of food, as the New Year must be welcomed with abundance! The kids had no complaints about this tradition, as everyone loves abundance! 🙂
Adding to this, Popo told the kids that the meal must include a dish that has fish! It is important for the fish to be served whole – intact, with the head and tail still on – so as to represent a good and lucky year ahead, from start to end (No Filet O here!). As the word “fish” sounds like ‘surplus’ in Chinese, having fish at dinner, reminds the family of the Chinese saying, “nian nian you yu”. With this abundant greeting, the dish brings an auspicious start for everyone in the new year.
One of the kid’s favorite tradition is called Shou Sui! Popo reminded the kids that Shou Sui means “after the New Year’s Eve dinner”, and this is where family members will stay awake all the way to midnight to welcome the New Year! In doing so, the Chinese believe that the parents will have a long life! This is a real hit with the kids, as they love to break their bedtime rules, and stay up till late. Popo told them, that when she was young, she would stay up until midnight to catch the fireworks around the neighborhood, as everyone would be up to welcome the New Year. Although the kids realized that fireworks are now banned in Singapore, it did not seem to dampen their spirits, as they could not wait to stay up late with Popo.
It was certainly interesting to hear the stories from Gong Gong and Popo, as they gave us perspectives on Old Singapore that my wife and I did not get to experience. (I’ve never seen firecrackers before!) To find out more Chinese traditions, check out the video below:
Grandparents are always of great value to any family unit, and we are glad that the government is recognizing the value of the Pioneer Generation. Through the Pioneer Generation Package, Pioneers will get to receive additional subsidies for medication and services at polyclinics and subsidized SOCs, and $1200 for those with moderate or severe functional disabilities. Pioneers will also get special benefits for MediShield Life! There are so many other benefits, and if you want to read up more about it, find out more at Pioneer Generation Package.
But most importantly, we are so glad to be able to celebrate Chinese New Year with our parents. They have contributed so much to Singapore and to our family, and we are glad that they have the health to continue to enjoy many more good years with us and the grandchildren. Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Lunar New Year! Huat ah! 🙂
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