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Chinese New Year is also known as the Lunar New Year because it starts on the day of the first new moon of the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, which is why the date of the Lunar New Year varies every year. (Read more)
I was born and bred in Singapore. To be honest, I think I have been exposed greatly to Western influence throughout my growing up years.
But with ancient roots as Chinese, Chinese New Year has always been a very important occasion in my family, and also for most of the other Singaporean Chinese.
Why I enjoyed CNY as a child
I could buy fancy new clothes, new bags, and new shoes, enjoy all the various delectable Chinese New Year goodies, and more importantly, receive red packets, also known as Hong Bao!
The red packets are actually not so much about the money but more about the well-wishes that come along with it as the older generations give their blessings to the younger ones for a good start to the new year.
As you can see, there are many reasons why I would look forward to Chinese New Year as a child!
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Why I disliked CNY as I grew up
I have to admit that as I got older, I felt that the Chinese New Year visitations were more dreadful obligations and did not find them joyful as part of the festivities.
Some of these visitations would involve meeting distant relatives whom we meet only once a year. I could hardly remember their faces or the appropriate respectful terms I should use to address those different uncles and aunts!
It all seemed too hypocritical to me to find joy in such meetups. The conversations were shallow if there were any at all.
Otherwise, most people would have their eyes glued onto the television to even bother engaging in meaningful conversation, simply waiting for time to pass before scooting off to another place for visit.
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How having children changed my perspectives of CNY
However, things have been different ever since I had children.
To be honest, the routines of Chinese New Year remain largely the same and we still have gatherings with distant relatives whom we only meet once a year.
Somehow, with a baby, I was much more excited about Chinese New Year than ever before. I actually looked forward to bringing my baby to meet all my family and friends.
Above all, everyone was always excited to have young children in their midst, especially new additions to the family!
My firstborn was only 5 weeks old when he celebrated his first Chinese New Year. I remember that the day of celebration was exceptionally tiring for my husband and me.
Boy, were we dead tired after that!
Yet the joy of bringing my son around and having met all those family and friends who were overjoyed to see him and sent him so much well wishes, totally made the effort worth it.
The joy of Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year has taken on a new meaning for me and my perspectives have completely changed.
I have added responsibilities for Chinese New Year ever since I became a wife. I have to shop for the Chinese New Year goodies and prepare gifts for our parents and grandparents.
I have to prepare the red packets that need to be distributed during our visitations. I also have to do a major cleanup of my house before the festivities start.
Not all of the above mentioned is fun for me, yet I feel that they have made Chinese New Year more important and meaningful to me.
It can get rather messy and tiring to go about the Chinese New Year celebrations with a new baby or young children in tow. But I hope that you, like me, will also be able to find joy in the midst of the busyness and mess.
What do we want our children to learn about our family and our views of Lunar New Year?
What traditions do we want to uphold and pass on to our kids?
Here are 5 lessons that we can teach our children this Chinese New Year!
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1. Superstition VS Tradition
Do I believe that there was an ancient monster called “Nian” that we have to ward off by putting up bright red decorations around our house?
Do I believe that tossing up raw fish pieces and shredded vegetables which are ingredients in the yusheng will bring good luck? And that the best of luck goes to those who toss them the highest?
Of course not! But I still join in the joyous cheer of well wishes and the fun of tossing the yusheng.
After all, when it is ever alright to toss your food around, make a great mess at the table and still enjoy an exceptionally delicious dish? Only during Chinese New Year!
What do I think about the ceremonial session of pouring tea for my in-laws and greeting them on the first day of Chinese New Year?
Well, I never had such practices in my own home growing up, so I initially thought it was a little strange. But I have to follow my husband’s family traditions after marrying into his family. (Read related post: My Mother-in-law and me)
Absolutely not! Well, the truth is nobody would want to sweep the floor during Chinese New Year.
C’mon! Would you want to be doing housework when you are all dressed up? Or you are simply too busy with visitations to worry about sweeping the floor for a day or two!
But if there’s a mess that has to be cleared, would I sweep the floor? Duh!
My point is, there are many routines and practices carried out during Chinese New Year. Some of which are time-honored traditions with fresh meaning, while some are simply superstitions.
The older generation might have been less discerning in their time, but as parents now, we can help our children understand why we carry out certain practices or why we don’t.
Part of the reasons why I disliked Chinese New Year before was also because of its seemingly ‘outdatedness’.
But if I can teach my children to put aside superstitions and continue with well-meaning traditions, Chinese New Year becomes even more meaningful and more appropriate routines can be passed down.
2. Respect the elders
Everyone knows that it is important to respect our elders but I think this is of utmost importance to the Chinese.
Some of our elderly relatives might have played a huge role in caring for us when we were much younger but we might have grown distant over the years. (Read related post: It takes a village to raise a child)
This could also be a good opportunity to introduce our children to them and also let our children know how important these elders had been to us and how they deserve our respect and proper greetings.
During the visitations, the guests should bring along two mandarin oranges to ‘Bai Nian’ to the host and the elders around. It is a sign of respect and also to send greetings for the festive season.
The words of encouragement, yummy goodies and red packets that follow are sure to bring about positive reinforcement for our children!
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3. Family comes first
As children grow up, they will widen their social circle and enjoy the company of friends, perhaps more than their family members. They might find it less and less interesting to be going about the Chinese New Year visitations with the family.
Yet I believe it is essential for us to emphasize the need to put the family as top priority during the Chinese New Year season.
It would be a good time to introduce our children to the extended family especially if the relatives are unfamiliar to our kids.
At the end of the day, our perspectives will be of great influence on our kids. If we think meeting these distant relatives are boring, our kids are sure to feel even more bored!
I explained to my kids that these relatives are my from mom’s side of the family and they are important to my mom and that she would very much appreciate it if we could all go together.
My mom is the other main caregiver for my children so I told my children that it would mean a lot to their grandma if they went along to visit her family. Their love for grandma has made it easy for them to accept this request.
The emphasis on the importance of family must certainly be built upon from a very young age so that we won’t lose our kids to their friends during the teenage years.
4. Being a good host and a respectful guest
It is expected to have many visitations during the Chinese New Year season and I’m sure you would have certain expectations of your kids and how they should behave as guests.
It is helpful to set ground rules and convey them clearly to your children before the actual visit. I usually remind my children of how they are expected to behave at someone else’ house when we are on the car ride or just after we parked our car.
It is also very helpful to get your children to repeat your instructions to make sure that they have understood what to do and what not to do.
I also like to paint out various scenarios of what could happen and ask my children how they should react.
With all these preparation in place, even if the kids behave inappropriately as guests, it will be much easier to get them back on track simply by pulling them aside and giving a quick reminder.
When we invite my son’s friends over to our house, I would also remind him of our house rules the night before. He would then know it’s not appropriate for his friends to run upstairs or enter my bedroom.
As much as we want our children to be friendly and interactive, we also need to keep in mind their need for comfort, personal space, and assurance from us.
5. The value of money and saving up
With all the red packets that the children receive during the Chinese New Year visitations, it is a wonderful opportunity to teach them about the value of money and the importance of saving up. (Read related post: Positive Parenting - Allowance)
You may start teaching your kids from as young as two or three years old, but I realized my son was only truly receptive and appropriately aware at the age of five.
Saving part of the money from their red packets will encourage our kids to plan on what they want to spend on and teach them the concept of budgeting. This will also educate them on delayed gratification where they learn to save up and wait for the right time to purchase something that they truly want.
So yea, there is so much more to Chinese New Year than just going about the routines!
Here’s wishing you a wonderful Chinese New Year filled with much happiness and prosperity! May the festive season be full of cheer for you and your family!
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