This year I thought I’d ask my Chinese pals, some of whom are married to Ang Mo’s, which literally means red hair according to Wikipedia (welcome back, I missed you), and Ang Mo is a term for Caucasians (aka us white folk) in Singapore. I thought it might be nice to get a perspective of CNY from those in the thick of things.
To which Jamey replied “Chinese New Year is a ritual where the older generation pick on the younger generation. For example, why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, better job, baby, etc…” He suggested I add the wahs and lehs (aka Singlish) in where I see fit, but I’ve never been able to get to grips with the local language, so feel free to add it if you know how…
So far we have gambling, eating, new clothes, and no sweeping… I will elaborate on the traditions shortly.
Eugene (Singapore), is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met and a very dear friend. He told me: “In what is typically a very reserved, conservative and insular society, the Chinese New Year festivities sees us toss it all out the window. It’s our annual ‘coming out’ celebration and we like it big. Twelve days of Christmas? Bah humbug. We have 15 days of over indulgence, loud (literally with fireworks) parties and the occasional family get together. Oh did I mention over-indulgence? I you are visiting people during this time, I suggest bringing a couple of oranges, and a hearty appetite.”
Moving on to my great friends Keith (English/Iraqi) and Cara (Singapore).
From Keith: “My parents love Chinese New Year – in fact, this is the third time they will come for it. It’s about making a fresh start, so the idea of buying new clothes is a great way to cement that. Getting together with relatives and friends is always welcome – and more importantly, so is gambling :-)”
“I do like Chinese New Year and appreciate the traditions,” said Cara. “I don’t like them all but some make sense, especially now that we have children. I want my children to know that Chinese New Year is just as important as Christmas. In fact, they should think they are very lucky, as they have so many special occasions to celebrate throughout the year. For CNY, I like the idea of getting everything new, clothes (including underwear!), shoes and bags. We also shop to make sure we have plenty of supplies and food for the 15 days of CNY, and we steer away from dull colours, opting more for red, yellow, orange, and green.”
I can guarantee that if Cara is buying new underwear for CNY, it’s going to be gorgeous. Cara used to import French Lingerie into Singapore, and even though she’d look amazing in a pair of big beige panties up to her armpits, Keith is guaranteed to be a very lucky boy.
Continued Cara: “My family have never missed a Reunion dinner on CNY eve as far as I can remember. It is like Christmas dinner for Keith’s family. Reunion dinner varies across dialect groups and families, although for my family it’s all about steamboat. We celebrate CNY for 15 days, and while there are many traditions you can observe, I expect the modern generation enjoys the opportunity to gamble legally more than anything else!!”
“We start giving ang bao when we get married – there is an advantage for being single. Typically we are expected to give ang bao to any children or unmarried adults when we visit. We are also expected to give the mandarin oranges to the elderly. The mandarin orange is ‘ji’ in Mandarin which means ‘luck’.”
To conclude my “interviews,” I’m just having a chat with my friend Miin. It’s Friday and she hasn’t bought new clothes for the family – I can see the panic is starting to kick in, and considering the chaos on the roads this week, last minute shopping is not going to be relaxing.
Miin has a busy time ahead, with plans to visit relatives Monday and Tuesday next week, as it’s an opportunity to give respect to her elders and wish them good luck and good health.
Which reminds me – avoid banks at this time of year as well. The lines are out the door as everyone wants new Notes for their ang bao envelopes.
Asking if it’s closed to outsiders Miin said: “Foreigners don’t tend to get invited as it’s a time to get together with close relatives. It’s ok to invite friends, but it’s not typical.”
“It’s a nice time – I enjoy it – as I only see my extended family once a year. Everyone is so busy these days.”
I’d better leave Miin in peace because she has a lot to do. In the meantime, she’s given me an auspicious calendar (see below), and based on my Chinese Horoscope, I am not to turn my computer on or do any work this coming Monday, but Wednesday is a very good day for me. Cool, got that locked, loaded and scheduled in Outlook.
Jamey, Davina, Eugene, Keith, Cara and Miin – thanks for sharing this with me, and I hope I’ve honoured your traditions in a good way here. As one in four people on the planet now celebrates this tradition – the longest chronologically celebrated festival in human history – I thought a little bit of insight might be nice to share.
With that I wish everyone Gong Xi FaCai and I’m certainly looking forward to a year of peace and prosperity.