Friday, January 31, 2014

{Five for Friday} 5 Favorite Chinese New Year Traditions

Happy Chinese New Year!

I haven't celebrated Chinese new year (CNY) in Singapore in 17 years, so it feels like my last memory of it is from different lifetime. Chinese new year was the biggest holiday of my childhood. My family didn't celebrate Christmas, but we always had the lunar new year to look forward to. In many ways, preparing for all the hustle and bustle of the new year is no different from preparing for Christmas. There's always lots to do, buy, and cook.

Here are my 5 favorite new year traditions from my childhood:

** Reunion dinner. On the eve of CNY, the family would gather at my grandparents' house for dinner. My paternal grandparents had 9 kids (5 sons, 4 daughters), so that meant a lot of cousins to goof off with. My grandparents would set up an elaborate feast where every food item symbolized something auspicious. I sat at the kids' table with my cousins for 16 years.

** New pajamas/new clothes. New year, new beginnings, new clothes. After we've had our reunion dinner, we'd shower and put on a set of new pajamas. I love pajamas and my mom always got me fun ones. This is also the only time of the year she would splurge on pretty dresses and matching new shoes for me. As a little girl, I was thrilled by all the frills!

** Cookies. There are always tons of cookies to eat, especially since my mom was making them to sell! Pineapple tarts, cashew cookies, and "love letters." Yum, yum, and more yums. I've never attempted to make my own since my mom and dad still take the trouble to send them to me.

** The CNY countdown show. There is the strange believe that the later you go to bed on CNY eve, the longer your parents will live. So that would be the one night of the year I tried to stay up for as long as mom and dad would let me. We'd usually turn on the TV and watch the countdown show. Lots of singing and dancing, lots of fortune telling and tips on how to improve the year ahead. I grew to love the tradition of watching the countdown.

** Plants. Take a hike, Christmas trees! For CNY, my mom would decorate vases filled with tall branches of pussy willows. I'd help her to hang the red and gold ornaments. Sometimes she'd also grow some arrowroot plants in these huge porcelain bowls.

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