Friday, January 30, 2009

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year came and went like the breeze. We are effectively still celebrating Chinese New Year. We still have all the goodies stocked at home in case visitors come by any time, and this will continue through out the 15 days even though we're all back at work now. Well, at least for some of us. A couple of my friends, have this whole week off since Monday.

The day typically starts off pretty early for my family. The reason is simple. My mum has a HUGE family and if we want to see everyone, then we need about 3 to 4 days dedicated to just visiting. That's what we used to do at least when we were still younger. Now that we've all grown up, and since some of the relatives are not around anymore, there's less people to visit. So about 2 days would do it. What I love about this day.... is the food. Eat Eat Eat Eat Eat! I love it! Allow me to take you through our Chinese New Year, traditions, and show you my family.

We arrived at my parent's place at 10am. And to Julien's pleasant surprise, he got his first 2 ang baos (red packet filled with money) of the day, from my grandmother, and my aunt. Just to elaborate briefly on ang bao giving. During Chinese New Year, there's a lot of transfering of wealth from the eldest generation to the youngest. Also, once you're married, you're obliged to give out ang baos as well. That means if I have a cousin who is older but isn't married, I am obliged to give her an ang bao too as long as I am married. So it's my last year to collect my wonderful red packets this 2009. Next year, I'll be contributing like the rest of the other "mature" adults. The colour red is a symbol of good luck. So when you give out an ang bao, you're actually wishing the person good luck and wealth. Even the well wishes ie GONG XI FA CAI mean "Congratulations you're rich". These little red packets are usually given during a celebration ie, festive seasons, baby showers, wedding celebrations, birthdays, house warmings, etc.

Julien's first 2 ang baos of the day

It's common that we would dress up in our new clothes during this day, and like I mentioned we do house cleaning, throw out old things, buy new things, to symbolise forgetting the past or old and welcoming the new. Also for the house to be in good clean condition when people come visit. Because, you're all dolled up on that day, it's also the day that you take the most pictures of yourself with everyone else.

My sisters Min, Rachel and I

Julien with my sisters

My parents

The Family

I can't remember who it was, but someone said, "let's do crazy", and we kind of got a little carried away after with the photo taking....

It started out funny

Then it just got weird

So we decided to be a little more serious and start our ang bao collection process! In my family, we wish the older generation by age. Hence we go to the oldest person in my family, my grandmother, then my aunt, then my parents. And we wish them in order of our age too - I go first, then Julien, then Min, then Rachel. When wishing someone, we offer them oranges which is a symbol of gold and fortune. They in turn will return the wish with two other different oranges and an ang bao! This is a first for Julien.

Julien paying respect to my parents with oranges

My parents returning the well wish with different oranges and an ang bao

In this household, we pay our respects to the elders in the following order: my aunt to my granny, my parents to my granny, my parents to my aunt (she's my dad's older sister), Us (Julien, Min, Rachel and I) to my granny, Us to my aunt, Us to my parents. After all that was done, our next stop as every other year would be my mum's side of the family.

The day's just starting and we're already rich

I had previously sent Julien some pictures of my Uncle's (Mum's brother) house in previous years, but when he actually saw it for himself, he couldn't help but blurt out "My God it's a museum!". My uncle's got all sorts of furniture put together in a very eclectic sort of style.

Like a scene out of a movie

So in the same manner, we wish everyone in order of generation and age. Only it takes longer in this family because my mum is the 2nd youngest child of 8 children. In this household, we have my maternal grandmother's generation, my mother's generation, my generation, Rachel's (my sister) generation, then the generation of my nieces and nephews. 5 generations in one location! Imagine that. Because the family is so huge, we tend to forget who's who sometimes.

Julien wishing my maternal grandmother

My maternal grandmother

What I really look forward to apart from meeting my other cousins whom I see once a year, is to sit with my family and have steamboat together. Steamboat is a style of eating something.. almost like fondue for the French. Only it's a big bowl of clear broth, and we cook raw meat and seafood in this broth, which is great because I love seafood. Julien loves it!


I'm getting hungry

My Uncle being the merry host

Having a meal together

Of course I had finished my meal already since I came early
so no need vie for seats at the steamboat

Every year, the spotlight falls on someone. Either someone's getting married, or someone brought a new boyfriend, or someone got pregnant, or someone did well in school, etc. This year, the spotlight was on my nephew, Marcus. You might have already read about him in our previous post. He's grown so much in just 4 months (October 2008 - Jan 2009)!

October 2008 - January 2009

At least we all know where he got his good looks from

Everyone, and I mean everyone couldn't keep their hands off him. Funny, watching my relatives going gaga over him, made me wonder if I was pinched, smothered, squeezed, poked, passed around like a piece of meat when I was a baby too. Even Julien caved in and had to hold Marcus for a bit too. He was just too chubby to go unnoticed. Marcus wasn't all too happy though.

We stayed a long time at my uncle's house chatting and catching up with cousins that we only get to see or meet once a year. We can arrange to meet up more often, but somehow we just never got to it. I'm still happy to be able to see them at least once a year though.

My cousins: Min, Justine, Me, Jasmine (Marcus's mother)

I'm glad Julien enjoyed himself (He's wearing Marcus's bib)

Next stop was another relative's house (I can't remember how we're related) which we visit every year. This year some of my relatives in this household went away to China during the Chinese New Year for a holiday (I think) so there were not that many people around. So we didn't stay very long. Julien seemed to be impressed with the houses we've visited so far.

Our last stop for the day, was to my mum's aunty's house. This old grandaunt of mine simply adores my mother. The story is that mum was almost given away to this aunt when she was a baby to be adopted as her daughter (don't ask me why, I can't understand this system myself either), but because my mum could not stop crying, she gave her back to my grandmother. And she regretted it so much, having seen my mum grow up to be the beautiful and successful woman that she is today. She will tell us the same story every other year. My granduncle (her husband) says he's lost count of the number of times she's repeated this story each time my mother comes to visit.

It is at this grand aunty's house that the second highlight of the day commences. Steamboat round 2!!! Good steamboat takes many factors: The stock (has to be flavourful. That's why it's usually precooked days before), the seafood and meat (has to be fresh so we don't get a tummy ache), the chilli sauce (very very important). Home cooked food is always the best. After that last stop, Julien officially declared he needed to go on a diet (that he never started).

We had so much fun we didn't want the day to stop. So we met up with some more friends after at Zouk and partied some more. Chinese New Year was great fun!

To more happy moments like this through out the year of the ox.


micheltdt said...

I enjoyed this post about New Year's traditional family visits and wishes etc. But I feel a bit confused with the order to contribute to wishes, depending on age, family relation etc... I would need to practice with an expert like you Ting! Only 4 days remaining to fly to Singapore, we are impatient. Kisses to all there.

Tinker said...

Yes, even I get confused with such a big family even though this has been happening every year for the past 28 years of my life. Don't worry. I'll explain more in detail the customs when you're here. See you soon!